The US Air Force’s (USAF) new combat search and rescue helicopter, the Sikorsky HH-60W Jolly Green II, completed a month-long battery of extreme conditions testing.

The helicopter finished extreme heat, cold, rain and wind testing on 2 April at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, the service says on 8 April.

Within a 5,110sq m test chamber at McKinley Climatic Lab, the helicopter was baked under bright lights which brought the air temperature around the aircraft to 49°C (120°F). It was chilled to -51°C. The aircraft was also blasted with 39kt winds and 130USgal-per-minute of simulated rain, says the USAF.

“The crew would execute their preflight checklists and perform tasks to see if the extreme conditions affected any of the avionics, electronics, engine and other systems,” says the USAF. “The aircrew performing the procedures were also test subjects themselves. Their own reactions and movements were evaluated in the harsh environments.”

For example, the service evaluated whether pilots could reach all of the aircraft controls while wearing thicker and bulkier cold-weather gear.

With testing complete, the HH-60W will return to Sikorsky’s test facility in West Palm Beach, Florida for further evaluation, says the USAF.

The USAF has ordered 22 examples of the HH-60W so far. The service’s programme of record calls for 113 helicopters to replace the aging HH-60G Pave Hawks.

The first production unit of the HH-60W is scheduled for delivery in April 2021.