Inside the Gates: Replacing aging recovery helicopters
Pave Hawk helicopters are vital resources when it comes to search and rescue operations in Alaska. The problem is, of the five on Joint Base Elemndorf-Richardson, two are in hangars undergoing repairs.
The life expectancy of Pave Hawk helicopters is slated for around 6,000 flight hours. The current Pave Hawk helicopters on JBER are at 7,000 flight hours.
Tech. Sgt. Nathan Skains with the 176th Maintenance Squadron said it's a lot of maintenance, which takes a long time to get done.
The Air Force is taking advantage of a program called the Operational Loss Replacement Program, which will help JBER replace their Pave Hawk helicopters.
"Operational Loss Replacement Program was created to replace HH-60s within the Air Force fleet due to losses that we've sustained over the last 20 years or so," said Senior Master Sgt. Anthony Hemenway, Flight Line Superintendent with Alaska Air National Guard.
The helicopters are newer models then the current Pave Hawk helicopters used on JBER — most with around half of the flight operating hours and more up to date equipment installed.
"That's why it's imperative that we're getting these new helicopters in to just kind of relieve the stress of these old aging aircraft," Skains said.
Hemmenway said the newer aircraft will hopefully fatigue less. He says they weigh less and fly faster. The newer Army models are expected to hold the gap between now and the year 2027 when new HH-60W combat rescue helicopters are expected to arrive.
The Alaska Air National Guard is set to receive six Black Hawk helicopters to covert. The first arrived Aug. 5 and went on its first rescue mission Aug. 18.
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