It’s official: the U.S. Air Force will call its new HH-60W combat rescue helicopter the "Jolly Green II."
Standing alongside combat-search-and-rescue pilots from past and current conflicts, Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett made the announcement during the opening of the Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida, Thursday.
"Reviving the Jolly Green name honors our combat search and rescue crews past and present," Barrett said on social media following her speech. "In the hands of our airmen, the HH-60W ensures the rescue community can perform their duties better than ever," she said.
The longstanding motto of the rescue community is, "These things we do that others may live." The name Jolly Green -- which the CSAR community has adopted as its trademark alongside green feet stamps on the aircraft -- dates back to the Vietnam War era when American pilots flew the HH-3E.
While pilots today will stamp the sides of the helicopter with green feet to commemorate their own missions, the origin of the green feet is a nod to the HH-3E helicopter, also known as the Jolly Green Giant, which left fat imprints when landing in Vietnam’s rice patties and grass fields, according to the service.
Unlike the new HH-60W, which will officially be known as “Jolly Green II,” the HH-3E helicopter, used mainly for recovering downed pilots, only carried the moniker as a nickname.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein on Thursday stressed the service’s need for HH-60W, especially given his own experience. As a lieutenant colonel, Goldfein was shot down in his F-16CJ fighter jet over Serbia in 1999 during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, and subsequently rescued by CSAR units.
"The Jolly Green gives us extended range and better capability," Goldfein said on Twitter following the announcement. "I was grateful for a ride out of enemy territory when I needed it and I can tell you first-hand that this aircraft will save lives."
In July, the service began its first tests of the Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky-made HH-60W -- based on the UH-60M Black Hawk -- which is meant to replace its current HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet. Its missions also include "civil search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response, humanitarian assistance, security cooperation/aviation advisory, NASA space flight support and CSAR command and control," the service said.
Current 1980s-era HH-60G models are capable of flying low, and have a retractable in-flight refueling probe and internal auxiliary fuel tanks that allow for better range and loiter time during rescue missions.
The HH-60W doubles the internal fuel capacity without using the auxiliary fuel tanks, and also increases the flight hours. The aircraft also has improved avionics, navigation, communications and an enhanced software network, plus better defensive measures and armored plating, according to the company.
Through its fiscal 2019 and 2020 budgets, Congress gave the Air Force the authority to procure 22 of the Jolly Green II. The first two units to be fielded with the aircraft will be the 41st Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, and the 512th Rescue Squadron at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, officials said.
The service plans to purchase up to 113 of the rotary-wing aircraft.