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HH-60W Jolly Green II's first flight at Kadena

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Luis E. Rios Calderon

The HH-60W Jolly Green II, successor to and replacement of the HH-60G Pave Hawk, took its first flight over the pacific theater and at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Feb. 27, 2024.

Known as the “Whiskey” model, the HH-60W is designed with integrated mission systems that improve the aircrew’s situational awareness while conducting combat search and rescue operations in and out of contested environments.

“The Whiskey came to Kadena to replace the Pave Hawk which has been in service here since 1993 and has saved countless lives not only in Afghanistan but across the Indo-Pacific,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Louis ‘Shiner’ Nolting, 33rd Rescue Squadron commander. “The HH-60W gives us a modern, combat capable helicopter with improved power avionics, defensive systems, weapon systems, survivability and personnel recovery.”

The HH-60W is aimed for a variety of mission critical operations to include: recovering isolated personnel from hostile or denied territory, day or night, in adverse weather and other threat environments where the 33rd RQS will operate during various sorties.

“I’ve been flying this HH-60W for three years and I was fortunate enough to return to Kadena for a second assignment,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Rhoades, 33rd RQS combat rescue helicopter team lead. “This is the first sortie this aircraft has flown since arriving at Kadena, and this is the first active duty Air Force crew to fly this helicopter. It flew exactly like how I expected it to and met all our expectations.”

Nolting said they will have all of their HH-60Gs divested by August and that more HH-60Ws will be arriving before mid 2025.

The 33rd Helicopter Maintenance Unit are the ones who perform all routine maintenance operations on the HH-60 models and ensure their operators are safe and capable of performing their operational duties with minimal delay and maximum efficiency.

They were also vital to the arrival of the HH-60W, unloading it safely when it arrived at Kadena Air Base and preparing it for its historic first flight over the Indo-Pacific. 

“We appreciate all the support from the base, especially from the 33rd Helicopter Maintenance Unit,” said Nolting. “They did a ton of great work to pull this off the cargo aircraft and get it to fly for its second flight ever at Kadena.”