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Boeing to build new search-and-rescue helicopter.

The Air Force has awarded Boeing Helicopter, of Ridley Park, Pa., a contract worth a possible $15 billion to build 141 next-generation combat search-and-rescue helicopters.

The new helicopters would be HH-47s--updated versions of the CH-47 Chinooks that the Air Force has been flying for 50 years. They would replace a current, aging combat search-and-rescue fleet of 101 HH-G Pave Hawks.

Both the Pave Hawk and the HC-130 are obsolete and should be retired, said Air Force Reserve Col. Steve Kirkpatrick, commander of the 920 Rescue Wing at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.

"The HH-60 is a great aircraft, but it is really limited," he told a recent conference in Arlington, Va. "We need a helicopter with more cabin space and better performance in mountainous terrain."

The Army also is in the market for a new combat search-and-rescue helicopter. One of its top acquisition programs is the HH-60M helicopter, a medical-evacuation variant of the latest generation of Black Hawks, said Lt. Col. Pete Smart, medivac program manager for the service's aviation life management command at Redstone Arsenal, Ala. The Army has been flying Black Hawks since 1978, but the current fleet is too limited for today's missions, he said.

For one thing, existing Black Hawks are too small for medical evacuations, Smart said. "The first things medics chuck out are the third seats. There's just not enough room." Also, they have built-in medical equipment, which takes up too much space, he said.

The HH-60M offers more room, lift and range, which can be critical during the so-called "golden hour" of patient treatment, Smart said. The golden hour is the 60-minute period after a victim receives a severe wound. The casualty's chances of survival are said to be greatest if he of she can reach an operating room during that period.

Smaller pieces of equipment also make a difference in search and rescue, officials said. Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, for example, the Coast Guard plucked more than 33,000 men, women and children from rooftops or floodwaters.

As a result, "our helicopter hoists are going to wear out a lot faster because of all the lifting we did," said Ted White, acting chief of search-and-rescue policy. "How do you budget for that?"

The hoists are critical parts of the mission, rescuers agreed. The Army lost an evacuee and a helicopter crewmember during a nighttime operation several weeks ago in Afghanistan, Smart said. The hoist that was lifting them jammed, resulting in the cable severing and dropping the two to their deaths.

"You never want anything to hang you up when you're doing a hoist-up--especially when somebody's shooting at you," Smart said.

In an effort to prevent such incidents, the Army is evaluating two hoists with improved braking capabilities. If the devices, developed by Goodrich Corp. Hoist and Winch Power Systems, of Diamond Bar, Calif., and Breeze-Eastern Corp., of Union, N.J., test successfully, they will be installed on the HH-60M.

General Dynamics C4 Systems, of Scottsdale, Ariz., presented its Hook2 GPS combat search-and-rescue radio as at least a partial solution to the services' communications problems. In 2005, the Air Force bought 1,402 AN/PRC-112G CSAR radios, bringing the total number of Hook2s sold worldwide to more than 16,000.

The system includes a transceiver--either the AN/PRC-112G or the AN/PRC-112B1--plus a handheld Quickdraw2 global-positioning device, said Bobby Boyle, a General Dynamics sales manager. The system provides encrypted, two-way messaging and precise location finding, he said.

"Downed pilots just have to remember this," he said. "Press the 'send' button three times, and an A-10 will come looking for you."
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Title Annotation:SEARCH AND RESCUE
Author:Kennedy, Harold
Publication:National Defense
Date:Dec 1, 2006
Words:599
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