Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant History

The HH-3E "Jolly Green Giant" was a specialized development of the original Sikorsky CH-3 transport helicopter. The HH-3E was specifically designed for Combat Search & Rescue (CSAR) which required long operational ranges, loitering times and hovering qualities and appeared during the American involvement in the Vietnam War (1955-1975). Due to its "combat" SAR classification, the HH-3E was purposely developed with extra protection for the crew and systems when operating in a theater of war. The HH-3E Jolly Green Giant is no longer in service with US military forces.

The Sikorsky CH-3E "Sea King" production model was selected for conversion to the CSAR role across fifty total airframes (the CH-3E was an offshoot of the Sikorsky S-61R product model). These helicopters were given a large rear powered ramp for ease of access to the cargo hold, self-sealing fuel tanks to counter the threat of small arms fire and armoring to increase crew survivability. Additionally, the CH-3E's were given armament for self-defense and a powered hoist for bringing up downed airmen. The hull was sealed to promote water-landings. In-flight refueling was made possible by way of a probe seated to the lower right of the fuselage. Overall, the airframe retained much of the general look and exact layout of the CH-3E when it in its revised HH-3E form.

The Vietnam War certainly illustrated the bravery and sacrifice of Jolly Green Giant crews for they were awarded over 190 Silver Stars, 24 Air Force Crosses and even one Medal of Honor. HH-3E crews were exposed to very harrowing conditions during a typical work day - bullet riddled airframes, loss of windscreens and fractured rotor assemblies. It was not uncommon for a single aircraft to have rescued dozens of downed airmen across the theater of war. One of the more famous of the type became "Jolly Green 22" which is retained on display at the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio - the vehicle having served 32 months in Vietnam skies.

Service for the HH-3E did not end with the conclusion of the Vietnam War for its special capabilities were put to good use in Operation Desert Storm during the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Again, the system served down airmen well and managed to further strengthen the history of this fine aircraft. Its involvement in the Gulf War would signal the end of the HH-3E line for the US Air Force retired its fleet by the end of 1995, bringing an end to a storied era.

The United States Coast Guard fielded a similar Sikorsky recovery model recognized as the HH-3F "Pelican". This, too, has been retired from active service.

Italy and Tunisia are the two remaining military operators of the S-61R model.

Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant Specification


Retired, Out-of-Service


[ 50 Units ]:
Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation - USA


- Transport

- Search and Rescue (SAR)

- Reconnaissance (RECCE)



73.00 ft (22.25 m)


62.34 ft (19 m)


18.11 ft (5.52 m)


Empty Weight:

12,346 lb (5,600 kg)


22,051 lb (10,002 kg)

(Diff: +9,705lb)


2 x General Electric T58-GE-5 turboshaft engines of 1,500 horsepower each driving 5-blade main rotor and 5-bladed tail rotor.


Maximum Speed:

153 mph (247 kph; 133 kts)

Service Ceiling:

21,001 feet (6,401 m; 3.98 miles)

Maximum Range:

779 miles (1,253 km; 677 nm)



2 x 7.62mm M60 General Purpose Machine Guns


HH-3E "Jolly Green Giant" - S-61R / CH-3C "stretched" fuselage variant developed specially for the United States Air Force; rear-loading freight ramp.


Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant

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