The Air Force is in the process of replacing their 80s era Sikorsky HH-60J Pave Hawk with the new HH-60W Jolly Green II.

According to, the Jolly Green II aircraft will have larger fuel tanks, upgraded avionics, navigation, and communication systems, along with new software, armor, and modern-day defensive measures. The Jolly Green II is based on the UH-60M Black Hawk but it is built for special Air Force missions.

This new helicopter was given the name of Jolly Green II, based on the “Jolly Green” nickname that the Air Force HH-3E helicopter earned in Vietnam. During Vietnam, the HH-3E Jolly Greens participated in many CSAR missions, rescuing downed pilots.

Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett said, “Reviving the Jolly Green name honors our combat search and rescue crews past and present. In the hands of our airmen, the HH-60W ensures the rescue community can perform their duties better than ever.”

According to the Air Force, the Jolly Green II’s missions will include “civil search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response, humanitarian assistance, security cooperation/aviation advisory, NASA space flight and support and CSAR command and control.”

For years, Air Force helicopters have filled the role of Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) and to this day this mission is still at the heart of these Air Force helicopter units.

The Air Force began conducting tests on the new helicopter last year. And recently, members of the 413th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base had started ground testing the aircraft’s three main weapons systems, the Air Force reported this week. The testing was conducted on the first, new Jolly Green II.

According to a service release, the Jolly Green II is armed with the following: the GAU-2, a gatling-style gun that shoots a 7.62 mm round at a rate of 3,000 rounds per minute; the GAU-18, a .50 caliber machine gun, capable of shooting 650 to 800 rounds per minute; and the GAU-21, another .50 caliber machine gun, that shoots at a rate of 950 to 1,100 rounds per minute.

Based on a report from AirMed&Rescue Magazine, thanks to the helicopter’s adaptable gun mount system, all of the weapons are interchangeable.

The Air Force’s release stated that the weapons test helicopter “contains specialized test instrumentation that allows Sikorsky to monitor hundreds of parameters during the flights and envelope expansion testing. That specialized instrumentation allowed the testers to record the stress and strains in the aircraft caused by firing the weapons.”

Jolly Green II crews participated in the weapons testing as well. Their main role was to determine if the firing of the weapons would inhibit the success of a mission, namely in the form of harming the crew and passengers or causing traumatic brain injury.

The Air Force’s Non-Nuclear Munitions Safety Board will review the results of the ground tests prior to the commencement of in-flight weapons testing, which is planned to kick-off before the end of the year.

Prior to the weapons testing, the aircraft had already undergone testing in aerial refueling and systems testing including radar, weather, and defensive measures, officials stated.