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Sikorsky’s HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) achieved its maiden flight at West Palm Beach, FL, on 17 May. Total flight time was approximately 1.2 hours and included hover control checks, low speed flight, and a pass of the airfield.

Based on the proven UH-60M BLACK HAWK, the aircraft is customised for the US Air Force’s (USAF) rescue mission and will ensure the service realises its ambition “to leave no one behind.”

This achievement is yet another vital step toward a low rate initial production decision and getting this much-needed aircraft and its advanced capabilities to the warfighter," observed Sikorsky Vice President Army and Air Force Systems, Dana Fiatarone. "We are very pleased with the results of today's flight and look forward to a productive and informative flight test programme."

The flight paves the way for a Milestone C production decision in September 2019, as per the original baseline schedule, to which both Sikorsky and the UAF are committed. A second HH-60W helicopter was expected to enter flight test later in May, with a third and fourth aircraft following in the summer. These aircraft will provide critical data over the course of the programme, which will enable the Air Force to make an informed production decision.

"The HH-60W's first flight is the culmination of significant development and design advances,” commented CRH Program Director, Greg Hames. "Together with the Air Force, our team is motivated and committed to advancing this programme and delivering this superior aircraft to our airmen and women."

The HH-60W CRH is significantly more capable and reliable than its predecessor, the HH-60G PAVE HAWK. It features a new fuel system that nearly doubles the capacity of the internal tank on a UH-60M BLACK HAWK, giving the Air Force crew extended range and more capability to rescue those injured in the battle space. The HH-60W specification drives more capable defensive systems, vulnerability reduction, weapons, cyber-security, environmental, and net-centric requirements than currently held by the HH-60G.

"With the Combat Rescue Helicopter's successful first flight now behind us, we look forward to completion of Sikorsky's flight test programme, operational testing and production of this aircraft to support the Air Force's critical rescue mission," said the USAF Helicopter Program Office Chief, Edward Stanhouse. "Increased survivability is key and we greatly anticipate the added capabilities this aircraft will provide."

The USAF programme of record calls for 113 helicopters to replace the PAVE HAWK, which perform critical combat search and rescue and personnel recovery operations for all US military services. A total of nine aircraft will be built by Sikorsky during the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase of the programme ― four EMD aircraft and five System Demonstration Test Articles.

Sikorsky’s HH-60W CRH moved a step closer to a production decision on its first flight on 17 May. (Image: Lockheed Martin)

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