Military Aviation

HH-3E Jolly Green Giant

HH-3E Jolly Green Giant


The HH-3E, the Jolly Green Giant, is a twin-engine, heavy-lift helicopter. It is used for search and recovery of personnel and aerospace hardware in support of global air and space operations. It is also used for combat and special operations.


With the ability to operate from land or water, the Jolly Green Giant's combat rescue-related equipment includes titanium armor plating, jettisonable external fuel tanks, internal self-sealing bladder-type fuel tanks under the cabin floor, a retractable in-flight refueling probe, two 7.62mm machine guns, a forest penetrator and a high-speed rescue hoist with 240 feet (72.8 meters) of cable. The Jolly Green Giant also has been used for astronaut contingency recovery. Several of the aircraft have been equipped with the mid-air retrieval system for recovery of aerospace hardware.

The long-range helicopter has a hydraulically- operated rear ramp for straight-inloading and a jettisonable sliding door on the right side at the front of the cabin. It has a gas turbine auxiliary power supply for independent field operations and built-in equipment for the removal and replacement of all major components in remote areas. The five-blade rotors are pressurized for quick, easy inspection, and both the all-metal rotor and aluminum tail rotor are self-lubricating. The horizontal stabilizer is on the starboard side of the tail rotor pylon.

The Jolly Green Giant has an automatic flight-control system, instrumentation for all-weather operation, and Doppler navigation equipment. Twin turboshaft engines are mounted side-by-side on top of the cabin, immediately forward of the main transmission. The aircraft also has a retractable tricycle-type landing gear.


The HH-3E helicopter is a modified version of the CH-3 transport helicopter. It was developed for aircrew rescue missions deep into enemy-held territory during the Vietnam War. Many downed aircrews were rescued by Jolly Green Giants and their crews.

The first non-stop trans-Atlantic flight by a helicopter was made by two Jolly Green Giants between May 30 and June 1, 1967, when they flew from New York City to the Paris air show. During that 4,270-mile (6,832-kilometer) flight, which took 30 hours and 46 minutes, each aircraft was aerially refueled nine times. The Jolly Green Giant flew 251 combat missions during Operation Desert Storm.

General Characteristics

Primary Function: Combat search and recovery, and special operations
Builder: Sikorsky Aircraft Division, United Technologies Corp.
Power Plant: Two General Electric T58-GE-5 engines.
Guidance System: Doppler navigation equipment
Thrust: 1,500 pounds (675 kilograms) each engine
Length: 72 feet, 10 inches (22.08 meters)
Height: 18 feet, 1 inch (5.46 meters)
Diameter of Main Rotor: 62 feet (18.79 meters)
Diameter of Tail Rotor: 10 feet, 4 inches (3.13 meters)
Speed: 164 mph (262.4 kph)
Ceiling: 12,000 feet (3,636.36 meters)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 22,050 pounds (9,922.50 kilograms)
Range: 600 miles (521.94 nautical miles), unlimited with aerial refueling.
Armament (main and secondary): Two 7.62mm machine guns
Load Options: 25 combat-equipped troops, 15 litter patients or 5,000 pounds (2,250 kilograms) of cargo.
Unit Cost: $5.4 million
Crew: 4 (pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and a pararescue specialist. A flight surgeon may be included)
Date Deployed: 1966
Inventory: Active force, 12; ANG, 0; Reserve, 0

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