One of the primary modes of transportation for Guardian Angel (PJ/CROs) is the Air Force HH-60 Pavehawk. Essentially, the Pavehawk is an Army Blackhawk helicopter outfitted with advanced avionics and a refueling probe. Below is an inside story as to what makes the HH-60 tick.
Story by Senior Airman Malcolm Mayfield
The Pave Hawk is a versatile, maneuverable, combat search and rescue aircraft designed to conduct day or night personnel recovery operations in hostile environments, as well as, civil search and rescue, medical evacuation and disaster response. This makes it the aircraft of choice for the 56th Rescue Squadron.
“Our primary mission is to provide Combat Search and Rescue capes and personnel recovery to any asset that needs our support,” said a 56th RQS flight commander “This also gets expanded to civilian search and rescue operations, as well as humanitarian needs operations.”
To ensure the success of the CSAR mission, Army Black Hawks were modified with special equipment, such as a retractable in-flight refueling probe, internal auxiliary fuel tanks and a modular rescue hoist designed for a multitude of environments, thus turning the Black Hawk in to the Pave Hawk we know today.
“We have asked a bunch of these airframes, from the fine-grit sand storms of Iraq to the rugged mountain ranges of the Hindu Kush” said a 56th RQS gunner. “When we’ve needed them to perform, they’ve answered the call.”
The Pave Hawk has been in service for almost three decades, and continues to excel in the field of rescue operations. The 56th RQS’s aircrews spend approximately 350 hours a year training, including the ground training and studying required to safely conduct missions.
“The uniqueness about the Pave Hawk is that we launch in a formation that has 14 crew members involved,” the flight commander said. “[The crew] on both aircraft have a specific function or duty in order to ensure mission success, and the Guardian Angel team provides the unique medical capability to give any survivor we pick up a fighting chance at life.”
The 56th RQS is set to move to Aviano Air Base, Italy, in 2018, where they will continue their CSAR mission for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa.