Sikorsky HH-3E

The H-3's speed, range and load-carrying capabilities made it attractive for roles beyond antisubmarine work, and thus the USAF began its association with the type in 1962 when a trio of SH-3As were transferred to Air Force control as CH-3As. These were used as logistical transports in suport of the service's "Texas Tower" offshore radar stations; these aircraft were later joined by CH-3Cs built for Air Force use. The C-models had been redesigned, with a rear , loading ramp, and were later used for general transport, target drone recovery, and search and rescue support for space launches.

The Air Force H-3s were the first "Jolly Green Giant" rescue helos in Southeast Asia, operating deep into North Vietnam to grab downed American pilots before they could be captured. The Jolly Greens were fitted with refueling probes to extend their endurance, as well as having a half a ton of armor installed as protection against the often intense ground fire encountered. Other H-3s recovered AQM-34 drones after reconnaissance runs, while black-painted examples inserted and retrieved special forces teams operating in denied territory.

Although the much larger and more powerful HH-53s were to become the predominant USAF long-range SAR helos, the smaller Jolly Greens would be retained in service for decades after the end of hostilities in Vietnam, with the 71st SOS operating desert-camouflaged HH-3Es during the first Gulf War.

HH-3E walk around

Sikorsky HH-3E walkaround

HH-3 reading:

Magazine Articles and Photos:

Photo:  "First Air Force CH-3C Helicopter Rolled Out"   Aviation Week & Space Technology  June 17, 1963  p.34

Photo:  "USAF/Sikorsky Rear-Loading Helicopter"   Aviation Week & Space Technology  August 26, 1963  front cover

Photo:  Camouflaged HH-3Cs Loaded for Shipment to Vietnam"   Aviation Week & Space Technology  November 29, 1965  p.19

H-3 Sea King