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USAF seeks new missile protection for HH-60W helo as part of wider upgrades

With the Combat Rescue Helicopter programme having been baselined in 2012, some HH-60W systems, including the DIRCM missile protection, need to be updated ahead of the type's entry into service. (US Air Force)

The US Air Force (USAF) is seeking a new missile protection system for its HH-60W Jolly Green II combat search-and-rescue (CSAR) helicopter as part of a wider effort to improve on the 2012 requirements baseline.

The service disclosed on 15 October that it is looking to acquire a lightweight directional infrared countermeasures (DIRCM) system as part of a project, first reported by Janes in 2019, to bring the helicopter's capabilities up to today's specifications, ahead of the commencement of full-rate production later in fiscal year 2022.

“The HH-60W is expected to conduct recovery of isolated personnel in contested environments that include manportable infrared (IR)-guided missile and small arms threats. Legacy ultraviolet-based detection systems and IR countermeasures are largely designed to detect and defeat first- and second-generation IR missiles, providing only limited effectiveness against modern threat systems that utilise Band IV spectrum and counter-countermeasure technology. The IR defensive systems being delivered on the HH-60W rely solely on these legacy technologies with finite quantities of expendable countermeasures. While the proposed missile warning system (MWS) slated for the HH-60W does meet HH-60W programme requirements, recent classified reports warn of limited effectiveness against fielded and future IR missile capabilities,” the USAF said in its request for information (RFI).

“The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) Helicopter Program Office, HH-60W Division (AFLCMC/WIH), is officially conducting market research that will be used to assess the ability of companies and industry at large to design, develop, integrate, test, produce, and sustain a lightweight DIRCM,” the service added.

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