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The primary mission of the HH-60 is search and rescue, while MH-60 variants of the helicopter specialize in the tactical transport to, and recovery of troops from, behind enemy lines. The helicopters have also been pressed into service for MEDEVAC duties.
The HH-60 is built by Sikorsky with the official name of HH-60G Pave Hawk. While versions of the helicopters were first deployed in 1982, in 1991 the Air Force installed new avionics in the helicopters for improved communications and navigation.
Missions of the HH-60 can cover long distances. Their 4,500 lbs. of internal fuel plus a refueling probe enable such missions. The long refueling probe extends to clear the rotor disc where refueling can be carried out with wing mounted drogues trailing behind the refueling aircraft.
The helicopters can operated in virtually all weather conditions, day and night. When fitted for MEDEVAC duties, the HH-60 cabin can hold up to nine stretcher and three medics.
Pilots of the HH-60 sit side-by-side allowing for coordinated activities in the specially equipped cockpit of the aircraft. Folding main rotors and tail of the helicopter allow for storage in tight spaces. The rotors have de-icing for cold weather operations.
Exhaust suppressors for the engines allow for improved survivability by deflecting heat away from the aircraft. Defensive systems of the HH-60 include missile warning systems, chaff and flare dispensers.
The HH-60 has flown missions throughout the world. They have been used in Afghanistan, the Gulf War, Kuwait, Libya, and Iraq. The helicopters have been involved in aid missions in Mozambique, for Hurricane Katrina, and most recently after the Japanese tsunami.
The United States Air Force has some 100 HH-60 helicopters still flying today, while Korea still has eight of the aircraft currently in service.