Air Force Combat Search and Rescue helicopters continue to save lives, thanks to structural upgrades by the Corpus Christi Army Depot.
The first HH-60G Pave Hawk to receive the upgrade rolled out of Corpus Christi Army Depot during a special ceremony April 7.
The Director of Aircraft Sustainment for U.S. Air Force Special Operations Forces and Combat Search and Rescue, John Adams, was at the depot to accept the prototype Structural Integrity Pilot Program Pave Hawk presented to the Air Force.
"These are special aircraft," said Wayne Duffy, CCAD Air Force Liaison. "Their mission is combat search-and-rescue. They go in to rescue airmen and wounded soldiers. If necessary, they can fight their way in and fight their way out."
Because the future of the next Combat Search and Rescue project to replace the HH-60G fleet, CSAR-X, is awaiting results of the Quadrennial Defense Review, this small fleet of 101 Pave Hawks will have to extend their service life and workload.
"There's no longer a timeline for when we'll actually replace the HH-60 and get a new platform so that's why this SIP is all the more important," said Duffy. "We're going to have to extend the lifetime of this aircraft."
SIP is designed to prolong the life of the aircraft through a structural upgrade that either replaces or modifies parts on the airframe.
"Basically, we do 100% replacement or structure integrity of this aircraft to make it last another ten years or so," said Daniel Prado, Depot Production Manager.
Pave Hawks are highly modified versions of the Army Black Hawk helicopter. The in-flight refueling probe is a noticeable addition to the Pave Hawk.
Not so apparent is the upgraded communications and navigation suite. These differences require special attention when getting modified.
The program is not new to CCAD.
Structural integrity improvement is implemented on other product lines as well. For example, the A2A Black Hawks go through a process which accomplishes similar goals.
Pave Hawks, however, could not use an identical process. Instead, a new process for modification was engineered due to differences in part and airframe design.
A part which fit perfectly on a Black Hawk, for instance, would not fit on the Pave Hawk because of its fuel probe. CCAD's team of professionals went in and fashioned the modification, developing new tools to get the job done.
Support for the program continues to increase. Recently they received money for a new structure fixture that will decrease work-in-progress time during several phases of the program with alignment and installation.
Dedicated CCAD artisans have been modifying and repairing airframes on HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters in the program since May 2008.
During his visit, Adams thanked all those involved for their efforts. "We would like to thank you for what you do every day, turning out about twenty Pave Hawks a year to keep us safe and sound and to keep those missions going."
Depot Production Manager, Daniel Prado, applauded the crew, "I'm blessed that I have the talent that I have right now with these guys. They applied themselves and they did real well on it. They're pretty innovative folks."