Watch This: U.S. HH-60G Pave Hawks Carry Out Live-Fire Exercise in Hungary


Two HH-60G helicopters re-arm during exercise Jolly Vihar (Credit: Benedek Levente/

The most recent iteration of Jolly Vihar saw three Pave Hawks from Aviano Air Base, Italy, deploy to Pápa Air Base, Hungary.

From June 26 to July 7, 2023, three HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters belonging to the 56th Rescue Squadron from Aviano Air Base, Italy, took part in Jolly Vihar 23-2, an exercise focusing on CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue) and live fire missions.

“Exercise Jolly Vihar is aimed to enhance the U.S. and Hungarian forces’ ability to conduct integrated combat search and rescue scenarios and perform maintenance operations. This exercise benefits the 56th RQS [Rescue Squadron] and 56th RGS [Rescue Generation Squadron] along with NATO ally and partner nations by enhancing interoperability while learning each other’s techniques, strategies and procedures,” says a public release by the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano AB.

The 23-2 edition was the third bilateral exercise and the second this year: a previous iteration was carried out in February this year whereas the one before dated back to August 2022. The next is scheduled for September – October 2023.

As mentioned, three helicopters deployed to Pápa Air Base; on a daily basis only two were involved in the drills. US and Hungarian soldiers were used as role players, for MEDEVAC and CSAR. The training activities were carried out at the Bakony training and firing range. GAU-18 machine guns, suitable against soft targets, with around 4,800 rounds used each day.

An HH-60G maneuvers at low level during Jolly Vihar exercise. (Credit: Benedek Levente/

Hungarian JTACs (Joint Terminal Attack Controllers) took part in the exercise too, coordinating the air movements at the firing range

The helicopters flew 6-7 daily sorties at the range, each lasting 5-10 minutes. They were re-armed on the ground after every sortie, without engine stop. No night flying took place during the exercise.

One of the three HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters deployed to Papa. (Credit: Benedek Levente/

“The purpose of exercise Jolly Vihar for the 56th Rescue Squadron is terminal employment,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kayleigh Jones, 56th RQS special missions aviator instructor. “This is a great time for aircrew to practice factor threat analysis because we never know what squadron or unit we’re going to be working with. The more we integrate, the better we can facilitate personnel recovery across Europe.” According to the USAF, airmen assigned to Aviano AB and Pápa AB acted as red cells during the search and rescue missions. Red cells are role players whose purpose is to present problems that the aircrew must solve as a team. Norwegian forces on each aircraft fulfilled the role of a pararescue team. Their job was to help to mitigate threats and safely recover red cells with information relayed to them and the aircrew. According to Jones, working with the Norwegian forces improves cohesion with the knowledge learned from one another. This can also be applied to real-world situations.

Take a look at the following interesting video shot by Benedek Levente showing the Pave Hawks at work in the range during Jolly Vihar:

David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


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