The Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk is a twin turboshaft engine combat search and rescue (CSAR) helicopter in service with the United States Air Force. It is a derivative of the UH-60 Black Hawk and a member of the Sikorsky S-70 family. The HH-60's primary function is to conduct day or night combat search and rescue operations into hostile environments to recover downed aircrew or other isolated personnel during war. Because of its versatility, the HH-60G may also perform peace-time operations. Such tasks include civil search and rescue, emergency aeromedical evacuation (MEDEVAC), disaster relief, international aid, counter-drug activities and NASA space shuttle support.
In 1981, the U.S. Air Force chose the UH-60A Black Hawk to replace its HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopters. After acquiring the UH-60s, the Air Force began upgrading each with an air refueling probe, and additional fuel tanks in the cabin. The machine guns were changed from M60s to 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M218s. These were referred to as "Credible Hawks" and entered service in 1987.
Afterwards the Credible Hawks and new UH-60As were upgraded and designated MH-60G Pave Hawk. These upgrades were to be down in a two step process. But funding only allowed 16 Credible Hawks to receive the second step equipment. These helicopters were allocated to special operations use. The remaining 82 Credible Hawks received the first step upgrade equipment and were used for combat search and rescue. In 1991, the search and rescue Pave Hawks were redesignated HH-60G.
The Pave Hawk is a highly-modified version of the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk. It features an upgraded communications and navigation suite that includes an integrated inertial navigation/global positioning/Doppler navigation systems, satellite communications, secure voice, and Have Quick communications.
All HH-60Gs have an automatic flight control system, night vision goggles lighting and forward looking infrared system that greatly enhances night low-level operations. Additionally, some Pave Hawks have color weather radar and an engine/rotor blade anti-ice system that gives the HH-60G an all-weather capability.
Pave Hawk mission equipment includes a retractable in-flight refueling probe, internal auxiliary fuel tanks, two crew-served (or pilot-controlled) 7.62 mm miniguns or .50 caliber machine guns and an 8,000 pound (3,600 kg) capacity cargo hook. To improve air transportability and shipboard operations, all HH-60Gs have folding rotor blades.
HH-60G rescue equipment includes a hoist capable of lifting a 600 pound (270 kg) load from a hover height of 200 feet (60 m), and a personnel locating system that is compatible with the PRC-112 survival radio and provides range and bearing information to a survivor's location.
A limited number of Pave Hawks are equipped with an over-the-horizon tactical data receiver that is capable of receiving near real-time mission update information.
The U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk is operated by the Air Combat Command (ACC), U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE), Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), Air Education and Training Command (AETC), the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) and the Air National Guard (ANG).
During Operation Desert Storm, Pave Hawks provided combat search and rescue coverage for coalition Air Forces in western Iraq, Saudi Arabia, coastal Kuwait and the Persian Gulf. They also provided emergency evacuation coverage for U.S. Navy sea, air and land (SEAL) teams penetrating the Kuwaiti coast before the invasion.
All MH-60Gs subsequently divested by AFSOC, redesignated as HH-60Gs and transferred back to Air Combat Command (ACC) and ACC-gained Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) and Air National Guard (ANG) units.
During Operation Allied Force, the Pave Hawk provided continuous combat search and rescue coverage for NATO air forces, and successfully recovered two U.S. Air Force pilots who were isolated behind enemy lines.
In March 2000, three Pave Hawks deployed to Hoedspruit Air Force Base in South Africa, to support international flood relief operations in Mozambique. The HH-60Gs flew 240 missions in 17 days and delivered more than 160 tons of humanitarian relief supplies.
Air Force Pave Hawks from the Pacific Theatre also took part in a massive humanitarian relief effort in early 2005 in Sri Lanka to help victims of the tsunami. In the fall of 2005, Pave Hawks from various Air Force commands participated in rescue operations of Hurricane Katrina survivors, rescuing thousands of stranded people.
Currently, Pave Hawks regularly operate in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom supporting Army and Marine Corps ground combat operations and standby search and rescue support for U.S. and Coalition fixed-wing combat aircraft supporting those ground operations.