FRCE selected as depot source of repair for new Air Force combat rescue helicopter
The U.S. Air Force recently selected Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) as the stateside depot source of repair (DSOR) for the HH-60W Jolly Green II, the air service’s new combat rescue platform. FRCE will conduct all helicopter airframe programmed depot maintenance for Jolly Green II aircraft located within the continental United States, which represents about 70% of the platform’s total expected workload.
“I’m honored the Air Force has selected FRC East to support a core platform that performs critical search and rescue operations,” said FRCE Commanding Officer Capt. James M. Belmont. “Since the depot began operations in 1943, we have been a vital asset to national defense, and new workload like the Jolly Green II will allow us to continue to support our warfighters well into the future.
“It’s exciting to see the future of FRC East come into focus as we add capabilities that will enable us to support military aviation readiness for years to come,” Belmont continued. “FRC East is a pillar of the eastern North Carolina community and economy, and the success our team has seen in securing new workload on emerging platforms only helps cement our reputation as the premier vertical-lift depot within the Department of Defense.”
Matt McCann, director of the Business Development Division within FRCE’s Central Coordination Department, said the first Jolly Green II is scheduled to arrive at FRCE for maintenance in fiscal year 2027. Once programmed maintenance operations for the aircraft have ramped up to full capacity, the projected workload represents at least 210,000 direct labor hours annually – the equivalent of more than 100 full-time positions. Adding that number of jobs to the depot’s workforce would have a substantial impact on the local economy, McCann said.
“The HH-60W represents new workload above and beyond what FRC East currently maintains, rather than being a replacement for existing aircraft workload that is scheduled to sun down in the future,” McCann said. “There is a wide range of possibilities on what the final direct labor hours will look like annually, but this additional workload stands to bring a significant financial benefit to the area.”
The dual-piloted, multi-engine vertical takeoff and landing aircraft is the Air Force’s replacement for the HH-60G Pave Hawk, and is used to perform critical combat search and rescue and personnel recovery operations, said Del Bennett, capability establishment lead within the Capability Management Branch of FRCE’s Central Coordination Department.
The Jolly Green combat rescue platform has a long and storied history, running from 1967-2008. From the Vietnam War though the Global War on Terror, the aircraft was deployed in high-stakes scenarios to rescue individuals in dangerous or remote areas that weren’t accessible by ground transportation. The HH-3E Jolly Green Giant and HH-53 Super Jolly Green Giant – and later the HH-60G Pave Hawk – were used to rescue downed Airmen and other service members in hostile or denied territory, day or night, in adverse weather conditions, with threats ranging from terrorist to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear. The aircraft were called upon to conduct humanitarian missions, civil search and rescue, and medical evacuations. The Jolly Greens and Pave Hawk were welcome sights to those awaiting their arrival, and the Jolly Green II will fulfill these functions with improved communication, navigation and defense systems, along with an upgrade in weapon systems.
FRCE’s work on the platform will include disassembly, inspection, repair, assembly, ground check and flight testing, Bennett said. Commercial repair operations will provide the same services for HH-60W aircraft located outside the continental United States.
In order to get FRCE and its workforce ready to support the new platform, a Depot Maintenance Activation Working Group will begin operation soon. The working group will focus on ensuring the capabilities needed to support the platform are in place, and artisans are trained and qualified to perform required tasks prior to the first Jolly Green II’s arrival, Bennett said.
“We have started laying the groundwork to be able to support the platform with regard to infrastructure, logistics and maintenance,” he said. “There’s a lot of effort that goes into making sure FRC East can hit the ground running when it’s time to induct that first airframe. It’s important that everything is in place so we can turn these aircraft around and get them back on mission as quickly and efficiently as possible, while still ensuring the best possible quality product for the warfighter.”
FRCE’s commitment to quality played a large part in the depot securing the new HH-60W workload, Bennett added.
“FRC East has a proven track record of providing service to the Air Force with the UH-1N platform, and they’ve been very happy with the performance of our production line,” he said. “They know we’re reliable. They know we produce a quality product. They know we can deliver on time. They know we’re constantly in pursuit of process improvements to ensure the quality of the product stays high while we strive to reduce cycle time.
“Securing a DSOR designation is a very competitive process, and they take into account a lot of factors. It’s not just a matter of drawing a name out of a hat,” Bennett continued. “The work FRC East has done on the UH-1N has made the depot a name the Air Force can depend on, and it’s a real testament to the skill and dedication of the FRC East workforce that they have placed their trust in us.”
FRCE is North Carolina's largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,000 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $1 billion. The depot provides service to the fleet while functioning as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.