ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Kirtland Air Force Base officials and community leaders broke ground Monday afternoon on a $14.8 million building and new HH-60W combat rescue helicopter simulator that will be used to train pilots and crews.
The HH-60W is the new combat rescue helicopter for the Air Force, dubbed "the Whiskey" due to its W model name designation, according to a news release.
The first of the aircraft is expected to be delivered to the 58th Special Operation Wing at Kirtland by March 2020, but air crew members will begin simulator training as soon as the three-bay simulator facility is completed, set for June 2019.
The 58th currently flies and trains air crews, maintenance and support troops for special operations and combat rescue in four types of fixed-wing, rotary-wing and tilt-rotor aircraft. The aircraft included the HH-60G Pave Hawk, which the Whiskey is slated to replace.
The HH-60W is being developed by Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in cooperation with Lockheed Martin and is an advanced variant of the UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter.
The 60-Whiskey can be deployed in casualty, medical and non-combatant evacuation missions, civil search and rescue, humanitarian aid, disaster relief and insertion or extraction of combat forces, according to the Air Force.
The helicopter will deliver longer range, while offering a larger internal cabin space. It can accommodate two pilots, two gunners, two paramedics and two litters for medical patients or injured service members. Either side of the fuselage can be mounted with .50 caliber and 7.62mm machine guns.
The three-bay simulator facility is scheduled to house two HH-60W simulators and eventually a simulator for the replacement for the UH-1N Huey Helicopter, expected to be selected later this year, officials said in a news release.