ORLANDO, Fla. – The Air Force’s new HH-60W combat search-and-rescue helicopter has received its official name, which pays tribute to the aircraft that rescued downed airmen in Vietnam in the late 1960s.

Service Secretary Barbara Barrett announced Feb. 27 that the Sikorsky-built CSAR helicopter will be designated the “Jolly Green Giant II,” in tribute of the HH-3E “Jolly Green Giant” built by the same company. Sikorsky is a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin [LMT].

“The new combat rescue helicopter, the HH-60 Whisky, improves range and survivability for combat search and rescue operations everywhere, every time,” Barrett said in her keynote speech at the Air Force Association’s annual Air Warfare Symposium here. “Ladies and gentlemen, in recognition of these heroes, the Air Force is naming our newest CSR helicopter the Jolly Green II.”

Barrett recognized HH-3E pilots who “flew under fire into North Vietnam searching for downed Americans on three consecutive days,” without defensive armor, radios or navigation equipment.

“Still, the Jolly Green crews never lacked audacity and courage,” Barrett said. Former HH-3E crew members present at the conference were given a standing ovation following the reveal of the aircraft’s name.

Sikorsky also announced Thursday that the Air Force awarded a second Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) contract to build 12 aircraft for $500 million. The program reached Milestone C and began LRIP 1 production in September 2019 with 10 aircraft (Defense Daily, September 25, 2019).

“This second contract award demonstrates the confidence the U.S. Air Force has in Sikorsky’s proven ability to deliver and support the next generation combat search and rescue helicopter,” said Greg Hames, Sikorsky’s CRH Program Director in a Wednesday release. “Our team works daily – and in close collaboration with our customer – to ensure we build and deliver this highly capable and much-needed helicopter to the warfighter.”

The company is anticipating reaching the next program milestone, Required Assets Available, by the end of fiscal year 2020, said Rum Morgan, director for Sikorsky’s Army and Air Force Systems business development, in a Feb. 27 interview at the conference.

“The program is very much on schedule,” he said.

The original Jolly Green Giant was a modified Sikorsky CH-3 transport helicopter, and 50 models were converted to the HH-3 designation, adding armor, defensive armament, self-sealing fuel tanks and a rescue hoist. They were used in the Southeast Asia War as well as Operation Desert Storm, and provided rescue support to the Space Shuttle program before being retired by 1995.

The Air Force’s fiscal year 2021 presidential budget request included $973 million in base funds to procure 16 HH-60W aircraft, up from 12 aircraft included in the enacted FY ’20 budget. The FY ’21 Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget request includes three additional Whiskys for $174 million. The program of record includes 113 helicopters to replace the service’s aging HH-60G Pave Hawks.

Morgan noted that the Air Force is “pushing forward the max quantity” of helicopters it can in each of its lots through FY ’21. “The recognize the maturity of this aircraft and the capability, and [they’re] trying to get the aircraft in the hands of the warfighter as soon as possible.”

The company has just begun major assembly and production for the LRIP Lot 1 aircraft, and production for Lot 2 is expected to begin by the second quarter of 2022, Hames said Wednesday. The Jolly Green II has logged over 450 flight test hours to date, the company said.