The US Air Force's next rescue helicopter took to the skies for the first time on Friday, completing a 1.2 hour flight at the company's facility in West Palm Beach, Florida. Based on the venerable UH-60M Black Hawk, the Sikorsky HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter will replace the HH-60G, which entered service in 1982.

The maiden flight of the HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter included tests such as hover flight, low-speed flight, and passing over the airfield. The latest HH-60 Pave Hawk variant will now go on to its Milestone C production decision, which will be determined in September. Meanwhile, a second HH-60W will lift off next week and will be followed by a third and a fourth in the next quarter. These test craft will be used to gather data for production decisions.

The HH-60W is designed as a dedicated combat rescue helicopter with greater range, speed, and payload space. It has reconfigurable seating, double the fuel capacity of the Black Hawk, improved survivability and cybersecurity, a combat flight radius of 195 nm (224 mi, 361 km), and can hover at 4,000 ft (1,220 m) at 95° F (35° C).

A total of nine HH-60Ws will be built by Sikorsky for evaluation. If successful, the Air Force plans to purchase 113 of them.

"This achievement is yet another vital step toward a low rate initial production decision and getting this much-needed aircraft and its advanced capabilities to the warfighter," says Dana Fiatarone, vice president, Sikorsky Army & Air Force Systems. "We are very pleased with the results of today's flight and look forward to a productive and informative flight test program."

The video below shows the HH-60W going through its paces.

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