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106th Rescue Wing Receives New Search and Rescue Helicopter

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Sarah McKernan,
  • 106th Rescue Wing

WESTHAMPTON BEACH, N.Y. - The 106th Rescue Wing’s first HH-60W Jolly Green II search and rescue helicopter touched down at Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base June 20.

Col. Shawn Fitzgerald, the 106th Rescue Wing commander, said the arrival of the new helicopter marks the beginning of a new era as the 106th transitions from the HH-60G Pave Hawk to the latest rescue helicopter.

Lt. Col. Matthew Forbes, the 101st Rescue Squadron commander, said the current “Golf” models have served the wing since 1990.

“We are very excited all around and I am so happy to be a part of it and see it happen,” Fitzgerald said.

The crew that ferried the aircraft from Moody Air Force Base in Georgia to Gabreski included two HH-60W instructor pilots, a special missions aviator, and two HH-60 crew chiefs from the 106th Rescue Wing.

Master Sgt. Jordan Butler, an HH-60 crew chief, said the 106th crew chiefs met with their maintenance counterparts at Moody and thoroughly checked the aircraft before heading to Gabreski. 

“It’s awesome being a part of the team to bring our first ‘Whiskey’ home; knowing that it’s the first of a new era for the wing is exciting,” said Butler. “It’s difficult to go from something that you’ve worked on for 12 years, but a lot of the aircraft is similar, so learning the subtleties and nuances is going to be challenging, but I’m excited to begin the transition.” 

According to Forbes, maintainers from the 106th have already begun their qualifications training, with the first two aircrew members receiving their qualifications.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to work on the new airframe,” said Senior Airman Ryan Brandon, an HH-60 crew chief. “I’m looking forward to the upcoming challenges as we learn to work and maintain these aircraft.”

Forbes said the HH-60W features improved turn performance, increased hover-at-altitude capabilities, larger cabin space, and an internal fuel system.

“From a pilot’s perspective, the biggest difference is the avionics package,” said Forbes.

“You’re going from a federated cockpit to a fully integrated cockpit. There are a lot of upgrades that make us more survivable in major combat operations,” he said.

According to the Lockheed Martin website, the upgraded HH-60W avionics suite includes an integrated mission system with fully integrated cockpit and cabin displays. Weapons are mounted externally for increased cabin space and cabin and cockpit armor is improved.

With over-the-horizon tactical data receivers, the aircraft receives near real-time mission and threat update information.

“It’s an exciting time to be at the unit and get to see and work with the newest available combat search and rescue helicopter,” Forbes said.

The 106th will fully transition to the new model by June 2025, when the base receives its sixth HH-60W.

The 106th Rescue Wing, based at Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base, operates and maintains the HC-130J Combat King II search and rescue aircraft and the HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter. The 106th Rescue Wing is home to a special warfare squadron with pararescuemen and combat rescue officers, specializing in rescue and recovery, and deploys for domestic and overseas operations.