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Air Force Featured Stories

Increased firepower provides unique capability for combat rescue

  • Published
  • 920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs

The 943rd Rescue Group designed a concept to mount four additional M240 machine guns onto the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter to provide more firepower to the 920th Rescue Wing’s personnel recovery task force in contested environments.

The wing searched for an innovative way to bring more firepower to the fight and with the HH-60G scheduled to be retired, it had to be cost effective and easily transferred to the new HH-60W Jolly Green II because of the similar design structures.

The 943rd RQG operated within three constraints: utilize only available resources; work within Air Force manuals and technical orders to the maximum extent possible; and have minimal impact to manpower. 

Most HH-60 weapon configuration is comprised of two guns in any combination of the GAU-2C 7.62mm minigun, GAU 18/A .50 caliber machine gun, or M240 machine gun. The team had a goal of adding four additional weapons onto the aircraft and examined what would work on both platforms. It was discovered that the .50 caliber machine gun would not work because the floor design of the HH-60G would not support the torque applied by the GAU 18/A. The aircraft’s minigun also would not work because of the power required to operate the weapons. 

“The M240 is multi-capable equipment for our personnel recovery task force that will enable us to perform contested-area combat search and rescue, logistics under attack, and agile combat employment. It will increase our offensive and defensive capabilities, at an extremely low cost, and give us flexibility for air and land use around the world,” said Col. Jes Hamilton, 920th RQW commander. 

This concept required the integration or redesign of three separate parts to house two M240s on each door opening. First, a base stand from an existing cooperative project within the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve was found to meet the requirements. Second, an aircraft mount that was previously utilized by the 55th and 71st Special Operations Squadrons for their .50 caliber gunship operations was added to the base. Third, working in conjunction with industry partners, the group took an MK99 gun mount that was normally used for patrol boat operations to mount two M240 caliber machine guns and holds 1,200 rounds of ammunition. To use this mount the 355th Maintenance Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base fabricated gun mount stops for proper operations within the aircraft. 

In a rescue scenario, one HH-60 outfitted as a gunship would integrate with the CSAR task force and provide additional self-escort capabilities. Should that aircraft be needed for rescue, such as a mass casualty, noncombatant evacuation operation, or embassy evacuation; the guns can be removed within seconds, instantly becoming an additional rescue vehicle platform. 

 “As we perform forward operations at the edge of the battlespace, we will have multi-capable equipment that can be operated by multi-capable Airmen. As ACE operations advance, this airborne platform can become a land-based, defensive fighting position to defend an Initial Contingency Location/Temporary Contingency Location or ICL-Forward,” said Lt. Col. Joe Romeo, 943rd Security Forces Squadron commander. 

The next step in the process is operational testing in coordination with the Air Guard Air Reserve Test Center before the system can be used and fired on flying aircraft. 

“This capability increases the lethality of the PRTF and improves point defense in forward operations and also increases the capacity for airbase ground defense in support of the projection of airpower,” Romeo said.