Based on the Army’s UH-60 Black Hawk, the HH-60G Pave Hawk is a highly modified version with upgraded communications and navigation suite. The forward-looking infrared system, color weather radar and an engine/rotor blade anti-ice system, enables the Pave Hawk to fly in bad weather. The in-flight refueling probe and auxiliary fuel tanks allow the Pave Hawk to outdistance other rescue helicopters.

The HH-60G Pave Hawk is a highly modified version of the Army's UH-60 Black Hawk used for all-weather combat and civil search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response, humanitarian assistance, security cooperation/aviation advisory, NASA space flight support, and rescue command and control. Video // Airman Magazine

The Pave Hawk’s crew of pararescue Airmen can utilize its hoist, capable of lifting 600 pounds, to perform personnel recovery operations in hostile environments. The HH-60G is also used for civil search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response, humanitarian assistance, security cooperation/aviation advisory, NASA space flight support and rescue command and control.

Design and development

In the early 1980s, the Air Force began its search for a replacement of the aging HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopter. The Air Force acquired UH-60 Black Hawks and modified them with a refueling probe, additional fuel tanks and .50 XM218s machine guns. These helicopters were renamed “Credible Hawks” and entered service in 1987.
In 1991, the Credible Hawks and new Black Hawks were upgraded again and re-designated to Pave Hawk.

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pararescue school HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter at Kirtland Air Force Base
Instructors with the 351st Battlefield Airmen Training Squadron lead pararescue trainees in ladder climbing, fast roping and line hauling drills from an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M., Aug. 8, 2017.

U.S. Air Force photo // J.M. Eddins Jr.

After almost 40 years of service, the HH-60G Pave Hawk will be replaced by the HH-60W. Increased internal fuel capacity and new defensive systems and sensors will provide increased range and survivability during combat rescue missions. The fleet of HH-60Gs will be fully replaced with 112 HH-60Ws by 2029 with the first delivery scheduled for 2020.

Operational history

The HH-60 has operated during operations Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn, Enduring Freedom, and continues to operate in Resolute Support and Operation Inherent Resolve, supporting coalition ground operations and standby search and rescue for U.S. and coalition fixed-wing combat aircraft.

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pararescuemen lowered from a U.S. Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk
U.S. Air Force pararescuemen, 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, secure the area after being lowered from a U.S. Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk during a mission Nov. 7, 2012, in Afghanistan.

U.S. Air Force photo // Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder

Personnel from 305th Rescue Squadron flew HH-60 Pave Hawks to rescue “Lone Survivor” Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, after his four-man team was ambushed in the mountains of Afghanistan and he was the only one to survive.
After Hurricane Katrina in September 2005, more than 20 active-duty, Reserve, and National Guard Pave Hawks were deployed to Jackson, Miss., in support of recovery operations in New Orleans and surrounding areas. Pave Hawk crews flew around-the-clock operations for nearly a month, saving more than 4,300 Americans from the post-hurricane devastation.

Within 24 hours of the Tohoku, Japan, earthquake and tsunami in 2011, HH-60Gs deployed to support Operation Tomodachi, providing search and rescue capability to the disaster relief efforts.
Since then Pave Hawks have been instrumental in saving lives during natural disasters and major floods.

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HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter from the 129th Rescue Wing, California Air National Guard
An HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter from the 129th Rescue Wing, California Air National Guard, flies over Pardee Reservoir, in Lone, California, Saturday, April 14, 2018, during interagency aircrew training with CAL FIRE. Cal Guard helicopter crews and support personnel gathered for three days of joint wildfire aviation training to prepare for heightened fire activity in the summer and fall.

U.S. Air National Guard photo // Senior Airman Crystal Housman

Did You Know?

See more HH-60G photos on Flickr

– PAVE stands for Precision Avionics Vectoring Equipment
– To improve air transportability and shipboard operations, all HH-60Gs have folding rotor blades.

General Characteristics
Primary Function: Personnel recovery in hostile conditions and military operations other than war in day, night or marginal weather
Contractor: United Technologies/Sikorsky Aircraft Company
Power Plant: Two General Electric T700-GE-700 or T700-GE-701C engines
Thrust: 1,560-1,940 shaft horsepower, each engine
Rotor Diameter: 53 feet, 7 inches (14.1 meters)
Length: 64 feet, 8 inches (17.1 meters)
Height: 16 feet, 8 inches (4.4 meters)
Weight: 22,000 pounds (9,900 kilograms)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 22,000 pounds (9,900 kilograms)
Fuel Capacity: 4,500 pounds (2,041 kilograms)
Payload: depends upon mission
Speed: 184 mph (159 knots)
Range: 504 nautical miles
Ceiling: 14,000 feet (4,267 meters)
Armament: Two 7.62mm or .50 caliber machineguns
Crew: Two pilots, one flight engineer and one gunner
Unit Cost: $40.1 million (Fiscal year 2011 dollars)
Initial operating capability: 1982
Inventory: Active force, 67; ANG, 17; Reserve, 15