The 55th Rescue Squadron (RQS) ‘Night Hawks’ – a component of the 355th Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (AFB) in Arizona – has become the latest US Air Force (USAF) unit to bid a fond farewell to its complement of Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk combat search and rescue (CSAR) helicopters.
This move comes as the USAF continues to phase out the legacy HH-60G Pave Hawk and re-equip its CSAR helicopter units with the new HH-60W Jolly Green II in a process that began in 2022. The 55th RQS brought the HH-60G to Davis-Monthan in 2003, when the unit was relocated to the Arizona base and had since used the type to support deployments across the globe, while conducting humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR) operations in areas of the US that had been devastated by natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina. The unit had also been used to support the launch of NASA spaceflights.
In early 2022, personnel from the ‘Night Hawks’ deployed to an undisclosed location with three Pave Hawks to conduct the type’s final operational mission with the unit. Before the squadron returned to Davis-Monthan in October, last year, its HH-60Gs were used to support casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) and personnel recovery operations, while providing 2,400 hours of on-call support to joint and coalition forces in the unit’s near-region. While the 55th RQS has now parted ways with the Pave Hawk, it is now preparing to become fully integrated with the Jolly Green II by 2024.
Commenting on the departure of the HH-60G and the upcoming arrival of the HH-60W, Lt Col Paul Sheehey – director of operations with the 55th RQS – said: “The ‘Golf’ (HH-60G Pave Hawk) has been essential to ensuring success of the Air Force’s worldwide personnel recovery mission during their time here at [Davis-Monthan]. Countless people across the globe have survived their worst day because of these aircraft and the highly skilled 55th aircrew who operate them.
“While everyone at the 55th is sad to see the ‘Golf’ models go, we are excited about the transition to the ‘Whiskey’ (HH-60W Jolly Green II) model. The newer HH-60 platform should increase aircraft availability and bring newer technology to bear that our aviators can leverage to guarantee the solemn promise that Air Force combat search and rescue affords our nation into the future.”