Military Wiki
HH-3E Jolly Green Giant
HH-3F "Pelican"
US Coast Guard HH-3F "Pelican" from Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco
Role Medium-lift transport/SAR helicopter
Manufacturer Sikorsky
First flight 1959
Introduction 1961
Status In service
Primary users United States Air Force
United States Coast Guard
Italian Air Force
Tunisian Air Force
Produced 1959-1970s
Developed from Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King

The Sikorsky S-61R is a twin-engine helicopter used in transport or search and rescue roles. A developed version of the S-61/SH-3 Sea King, the S-61R was also built under license by Agusta as the AS-61R. The S-61R served in the United States Air Force as the CH-3C/E Sea King and the HH-3E Jolly Green Giant, and with the United States Coast Guard as the HH-3F "Pelican".[1]


A USAF HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopter flies over Canada.

The Sikorsky S-61R was developed as a derivative of their S-61/SH-3 Sea King model. It features a substantially-revised fuselage with a rear loading ramp, a conventional though water-tight hull instead of the S-61's boat-hull, and retractable tricycle landing gear. The fuselage layout was used by Sikorsky for the larger CH-53 variants, and by the much later (though similarly-sized) S-92.

Sikorsky designed and built a S-61R prototype as a private venture with its first flight in 1963. During its development, the US Air Force placed an order for the aircraft, which was designated CH-3C. The Air Force used the CH-3C to recover downed pilots. The CH-3E variant with more powerful engines would follow in 1965.[2]

The improved HH-3E variant would follow later, with eight built, and all 50 CH-3Es were converted to this standard.[3][4] Known as the Jolly Green Giant, the HH-3E featured protective armor, self-sealing tanks, a retractable inflight refueling probe, jettisonable external tanks, a high-speed hoist, and other specialized equipment.[4]

In 1965, U.S. Coast Guard ordered a version designated, HH-3F Sea King (more commonly known by its nickname "Pelican") for all-weather air-sea rescue.[2] The Pelican featured a search radar with a nose antenna radome offset to port,[1][4] and water landing capability.[2]

Italian Agusta built a S-61R variant, named AS-61R under license. Agusta produced 22 helicopters for the Italian Air Force.[2] The company claimed it could re-open the production line in 36 months to build additional AS-61 helicopters.[5]

Operational service

United States

A CH-3C during the 1960s.

USAF variants served in numerous air rescue squadrons and aerospace rescue and recovery squadrons of the Military Airlift Command (MAC), rescue squadrons of the Air Combat Command (ACC) and other USAF major commands worldwide. The aircraft was also used by a number of Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard rescue squadrons. All USAF HH-3Es, to include Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard, were retired in the 1990s and replaced by the current HH-60G Pavehawk.

HH-3F Pelican was a dependable workhorse from the late 1960s until it was phased out in the late 1990s. All USCG HH-3Fs have since been replaced by the HH-60J Jayhawk.

Transatlantic flight

Between 31 May and 1 June 1967, two HH-3Es of the United States Air Force made the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean by helicopter. Departing from New York in the early hours, the two helicopters arrived at the 1967 Paris Air Show at Le Bourget after a 30 hr 46 min flight.[6][7] The operation needed nine in-flight refuelings.[7] Both helicopters were later lost in combat operations in Southeast Asia in 1969 and 1970.[6]

Honors and awards

Due to the nature of combat operations, particularly in Southeast Asia, many of the operational H-3 crews received honors and awards. The highest American military award, the Medal of Honor, was awarded to Captain Gerald Young, on 9 November 1967. Young piloted HH-3E 66-13279 of the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron in an attempt to rescue an Army team trapped by enemy fire in Laos. When his aircraft was shot down, he escaped the burning wreckage and, despite severe wounds, evaded capture for 17 hours until being rescued.[8]


HH-3F of Italian Air Force

Italian Agusta began production in 1974 and delivered 22 helicopters as replacements for the Grumman HU-16 Albatross used for SAR (Search and Rescue) missions at sea. Italian Air Force AS-61R helicopters perform SAR missions in time of peace and C/SAR (Combat SAR) in time of crisis or during military assignment. All helicopters are operated by the 5 flights of the 15° Stormo Stefano Cagna and deployed in 4 bases across Italy.

From 1993 15° Stormo performed support missions to evacuate civilians during natural catastrophes and disasters in Italy. 15º Stormo is also engaged with SAR missions in the hostile zones of the several operations abroad where Italian Armed Forces are deployed - Somalia, Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.


USCG HH-3F Pelican on the water, demonstrating its amphibious capability. This was also the first HH-3F delivered to the Coast Guard.

Military transport helicopter, Sikorsky model number.
Proposed transport helicopter for U.S. Marine Corps, cancelled
Prototype operated by Sikorsky and first flown 17 June 1963.
One aircraft for the Argentine Air Force to HH-3F standards.
Long-range military transport helicopter for the US Air Force, 75 built.
Long-range military transport helicopter for the US Air Force, 45 built.
HH-3E Jolly Green Giant
Long-range search and rescue helicopter for the US Air Force, 10 built and converted from CH-3E.
Special Operations version for the US Air Force.
US Air Force VIP transport helicopter.
HH-3F "Pelican"
Long-range search and rescue helicopter for the US Coast Guard, 40 built.
AS-61R (HH-3F Pelican)
Long-range search and rescue helicopter built since 1974 under license in Italy by Agusta, 22 built.


CH-3E s/n 63-9691 of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department at Rialto, California

Military operators


Civil operators

United States
  • Carson Helicopters [10]
  • Evergreen International Aviation[11][12]

Former operators

United States

Aircraft on display


United States

HH-3E 64-14232 is on display at Kirtland AFB NM CH-3E 65-12799 is on display at Davis-Monthan AFB AZ, but is displayed with tail number 65-5692, Call Sign PONY12. CH-3E 62-12581 is on display at Edwards AFB CA HH-3E 67-14703 is on display at Warner-Robins AFB GA

Specifications (HH-3E)


Data from Evergreen,[11] Globalsecurity[20]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3
  • Capacity: 28 passengers
  • Length: 73 ft (22.3 m)
  • Rotor diameter: 62 ft (18.9 m)
  • Height: 18 ft 1 in (5.51 m)
  • Empty weight: 13,341 lb (6,051 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 22,050 lb (10,000 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × General Electric T58-10 turboshafts, 1,500 hp (1,119 kW) each
  • Rotor system: 5 blades


  • Maximum speed: 143 kn (165 mph, 265 km/h)
  • Range: 779 mi (677 NM, 1,254 km)
  • Service ceiling: 17,500 or 21,000? ft (5,334 m or 6,400 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,310-2,220? ft/min (400-670? m/min)
  • Disc loading: 6,500 lb (2,948 kg)
  • Fuel: 683 US gal (2,585 L)


  • Various equipment particular to the operating country.
  • Door guns on some variants (For information on American equipment, see U.S. Helicopter Armament Subsystems, S-61R)
  • See also


    1. 1.0 1.1 United States Department of Defense. DOD 4120.15-L Model Designation of Military Aircraft, Rockets, and Guided Missiles. Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 1974. p. A-40; 1998. p. A-43; 2004. p. 43.
    2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Apostolo, Giorgio. "Sikorsky S-61R". The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Helicopters. New York: Bonanza Books. 1984. ISBN 978-0-517-43935-7.
    3. "Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant fact Sheet". NMUSAF. Retrieved 2011-08-02. 
    4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Chant, Christopher (1996). Fighting Helicopters of the 20th Century. Twickenham, UK: Tiger Books International PLC. ISBN 1-85501-808-X. 
    5. Donald, David, ed. "Sikorsky S-61". The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. Barnes & Noble Books, 1997. ISBN 0-7607-0592-5.
    6. 6.0 6.1 "HH-3E". USAF ROTORHEADS. Retrieved 2009-10-24. 
    7. 7.0 7.1 "Paris Week". 1967-06-05. pp. 933–934. 
    8. "Vietnam War Medal of Honor Recipients". Medal of Honor Citations. United States Army Center of Military History. 3 October 2003. Retrieved 2007-05-29. 
    9. 9.0 9.1 "World Air Forces 2013". Flightglobal Insight. 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
    10. "A 21st Century S-61". Retrieved 17-March-2013. 
    11. 11.0 11.1 S-61R specifications.
    12. Evergreen helicopter fleet Note S-61 link points to an S-61R specs page, Evergreen International Aviation, Inc.
    13. "World Air Forces 1981 pg. 40". Retrieved 17-March-2013. 
    14. [1]
    15. "S.B. Sheriff’s Dept. CH-3C C/N 61-523". Retrieved 17-March-2013. 
    16. "USAF Sikorsky s-61 H-3". Retrieved 17-March-2013. 
    17. "World Air Forces 1981 pg. 100". Retrieved 17-March-2013. 
    18. "HH-3F Pelican Medium Range Recovery (MRR)". Retrieved 17-March-2013. 
    19. picture
    20. HH-3 specifications.

    External links

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