The US Air Force is halting its procurement of HH-60Ws as they continue to review their operations this year.

As the Senate released its new budget proposal for 2023, the USAF announced they would cut their HH-60W Jolly Green II purchases to 75 units instead of the originally planned 113. USAF leaders said this is their response to the changing threat environment in search and rescue operations. Just this March, the USAF proudly showcased the HH-60W and announced that the aircraft is on its final operational test phase at the Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

The successor to the Air Force’s HH-60G Pave Hawk has made considerable advancements, including its capability to support a full range of combat rescue missions. Designed by Lockheed Martin, the rescue helicopter can meet the long-range and high-threat requirements of the USAF. It has double the legendary Black Hawk’s versatility and fuel capacity, with a robust weapons suite.

The HH-60W “Whiskey” also has integrated defense and sensor systems that will supposedly provide a wide range of options for the USAF, especially during critical survival missions.

“Additionally, by retaining 100% commonality with all UH-60M engine and dynamic systems, the aircraft provides the most sophisticated rotorcraft in the world at an extremely affordable price and total ownership cost over the entire life cycle,” Lockheed Martin notes.

HH-60w Jolly Green II
Crews off-load from two HH-60W “Jolly Green II” combat rescue helicopters at Edwards Air Force Base, California, Feb. 17. (Source: Defense Visual Information Distribution Service/getarchive)

During the test flights in March, the commander of 88th, Lt. Col. Keith Craine, said they focused on incorporating the HH-60W in their tactics and rescue techniques. During the testing, Lt. Col. Craine said they are optimistic about the helicopter’s capabilities to help the Air Force.

“It allows us to more effectively use the capabilities of other US Air Force assets to collect information on isolated personnel and penetrate more heavily-defended areas,” Craine said in the release.

However, in a matter of months, the USAF is pulling back on its commitment to further incorporate the HH-60Ws into its operations. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said this is simply a quick response to what they’re seeing with Russian and Chinese forces.