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The final assembly of the first HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter Weapons System and Operational Flight Trainers is underway. The flight simulators will train the crew members of the combat rescue helicopter, enabling pilots and special mission aviators to train together in the same device, and in more complex and realistic scenarios.

Built by Lockheed Martin company Sikorsky, the HH-60W aircraft is expected to enter into service with the USAF in 2020 and will replace the service’s ageing H-60G Pave Hawk aircraft fleet.

The HH-60W can be deployed in casualty evacuation (CASEVAC), medical evacuation (MEDEVAC), non-combatant evacuation missions, civil search-and-rescue, humanitarian aid, disaster relief, and insertion or extraction of combat forces.

The aircraft training systems are expected to be completed in the first quarter of next year.

The flight trainers will have the capability to link with other simulators on the Combat Air Forces Distributed Mission Operations (CAF DMO) network, as reported by airforce-technology.com.

Sikorsky Air Force Programs director Tim Healy said the challenge is that the system requires much of the mission planning to occur while in flight rather than prior to flight, “due

to the time-critical nature of the mission and the reality that the threat, location and condition of isolated personnel to be rescued are not fully known prior to take-off. This requires that the aircrew become highly skilled at using the enormous networking and information capabilities that reside within the HH-60W, and that takes training and practice.”

According to the announcement on prnewswire.com, Sikorsky’s current contract with the U.S. Air Force for the Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) phase of the program includes the delivery of nine HH-60W helicopters as well as six aircrew and maintenance training devices, and instructional courseware designed specifically for the HH-60W aircraft.

The Program of Record calls for 112 helicopters to replace the Air Force’s aging H-60G Pave Hawk fleet, which performs critical combat search and rescue and personnel recovery operations for all U.S. military services.