The U.S. Air Force enlisted Air Center Helicopters’ H225s to conduct Special Operations training in elite offshore rescue operations - preparing them for real-life rescue operations in the field.
With its 16 H225s and 4 H125s, Air Center Helicopters is well known in the industry for its wide breadth of operational experience and capabilities - conducting everything from personnel recovery and medical evacuation in hostile military environments to firefighting and even carrying out scientific research on the ice sheets in Antarctica for the U.S. National Science Foundation. Recently, they supported a U.S. Air Force Special Operations Pararescue training unit, capstoning a rigorous skill level upgrade course - preparing them for rescue operations in more challenging offshore conditions.
Premier rescue unit for the U.S. Air Force
As part of the Special Warfare community, Pararescuemen or “PJs” as they’re referred to, are highly skilled tactical and technical rescue specialists with advanced medical capabilities. PJs are relied on in the Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force to retrieve injured airmen in challenging and potentially hostile conditions. With expertly honed skills in parachuting, combat scuba diving, high angle rescue, and emergency medical care, they regularly undergo training to sharpen their abilities - making them a truly formidable rescue team.
H225: the ideal training helicopter
To prepare these special operators for real-world military operations, the U.S. Air Force called on the help of Air Center’s H225s for this recent course in offshore rescue. “With each class consisting of 12 people, the H225 is the ideal aircraft for this type of mission; with its ability to fly longer-duration missions and still pick up that amount of people without having to go back and forth for fuel, the H225 is really a one stop shop,” said Ben Fox, Special Missions Assistant Program Manager at Air Center.
Over the five-day session, the upgrade course consisted of multiple operational situations where pararescuemen were called on to use advanced tactical solutions to confront challenging missions, such as stranded boats or downed aircraft with injured passengers afloat in remote offshore locations. Pararescuemen sometimes parachuted down, other times deployed from the helicopter into the water, where they could medically assess the patients and radio for the H225 to recover both patient and PJ, hoisting them up from the water and into the safety of the cabin.
“Since Air Center is also involved in personnel recovery in Africa, it’s happened that we’ve seen these guys from the very beginning of their training all the way through to actual operations in the field,” said Fox. “They train on the H225 and then see these same helicopters again in their real-world rescue missions abroad.”
Experience and reliability with the H225
“It’s important to have an experienced crew for these types of missions - who know what the PJs in the water need - as well as a reliable helicopter. Our maintenance personnel keep us in the air at a 99 percent mission capable rate, which speaks volumes about the ease of maintenance and the skill of our guys,” said Fox. Air Center has contracted Airbus Helicopters to meet the material support and spare parts requirements of their helicopters, including a dedicated spare parts consignment stock. Currently 13 of Air Center’s 16 H225s in the fleet are covered by HCare.