Back Sikorsky S-61R / CH-3 / HH-3 "Jolly Green Giant"

Sikorsky S-61R / CH-3 / HH-3 "Jolly Green Giant"

The S-61R differs significantly in a number of ways from the original S-61, in that it has a more capacious boat-type hull, modified to take a rear loading ramp, while the two sponsons have been replaced by two stub wings set farther back, into which the rear members of the tricycle landing gear retract.

The prototype was built by the company as a private venture and flown with a civil registration on 17 June 1963. However, the USAF had already placed an order with Sikorsky in February of that year for 22 aircraft, designated CH-3C, and they began to receive the first helicopters at the end of 1963. Subsequent orders brought the total number for the USAF to 133.

The CH-3C was used in the Vietnam War for rescuing pilots who had been shot down and came to be nicknamed the "Jolly Green Giant"; it was given more powerful turbines from February 1965 and redesignated CH-3E. The uprated "Green Giant" could carry 26 troops or 15 wounded, or vehicles of equivalent weight, and could also be armed with two Emerson turrets on the leading edges of the two stub wings. Forty-two CH-3Es were built, in addition to which 41 CH-3Cs were modified to this standard. The USAF also asked for specific modifications to be made to this helicopter to meet the demands of the Vietnam War: application of armour; use of supplementary fuel tanks for extended flights; self-sealing internal fuel tanks and a telescopic in-flight refuelling probe. Two of the first aircraft of the 50 to be built in the HH-3E rescue version became famous in 1967 by flying non-stop from New York to Paris (for the Air Show), covering the 6870km journey with nine refuellings by airtankers.

In August 1965, the US Coast Guard ordered a special version of the HH-3 which was given the designation HH-3F Pelican. This paramilitary American rescue service needed an aircraft with all-weather capability, which could safely land on water, and the HH-3F was the ideal solution. The Pelican was virtually identical to the HH-3E, apart from the lack of protection, armament and other military equipment. It had an AN/APN-195 search radar on the port side of the nose. The US Coast Guard received 40 HH-3Fs. The only foreign license-holder for this variant was Agusta, who began producing it in 1974. The 22 aircraft built by Agusta were all delivered to the Italian Air Force as replacements for the old, amphibious Grumman Albatross used for search and rescue missions at sea.

G.Apostolo "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Helicopters", 1984

Sikorsky S-61R / CH-3 / HH-3 "Jolly Green Giant"


- Two HH-3Es made the first non-stop transatlantic helicopter flights in 1967, making nine tanker contacts each.

- The first S-61R flew on 17 June 1963, almost one month ahead of schedule.

- The CH-3E could seat up to 30 troops or carry 2270kg of cargo.

- At least nine USAF surplus CH-3Es and HH-3Es were purchased by the US Coast Guard to supplement their 40 HH-3Fs.

- In 1975 CH/HH-3Es became the first helicopters in the US Air National Guard.

- Variants of Sikorsky's S-70 have replaced S-61Rs in US service.

Technical data for Sikorsky CH-3C

Engine: 2 x General Electric T58-GE-1 turboshaft, rated at 969kW, main rotor diameter: 18.90m, fuselage length: 17.45m, height: 5.51m, take-off weight: 9750kg, max speed: 261km/h, cruising speed: 232km/h, hovering ceiling, OGE: 2600m, range with max fuel: 748km, payload: 3630kg

Sikorsky S-61R / CH-3 / HH-3 "Jolly Green Giant"

Comments1-20 21-40
Mark McAtee, e-mail, 11.05.2016reply

I worked as an ART with the 302nd in the 70's and 80's and sure missed that squadron and every Sunday after commanders call we would have some great parties and barbecue out in the enclosed fenced area outside

Charles Miller, e-mail, 01.04.2014reply

My dad, Charles (Chuck) Miller was stationed at Udorn from the summer of 1965 through the summer of 1966. He was with the Jolly Greens and served as crew member on several occasions, I know. I do not know what squadron he was with. Is there anyone out there who knows or who may have served with him during that time?

ROBERT WINBLAD, e-mail, 30.11.2023 Charles Miller

I did two tours in Udorn Thailand, 1965-66 and again in summer of 1967.
I was flight engineer on H53B Sikorsky Helicopter USAF, we were called "The Jolly Green Giants". We flew dozens of missions into North Vietnam, at the time I was 21 yrs old. I sat in flight engineers seat and moved to rescue hoist operator or gunner depending on situation. Don't know if we served together but we were their around the same time.


Bill Goldstein, e-mail, 31.12.2012reply

Worked on the "jolly from 1967-1969 @ NKP RTAB with the 21st helicopter sq., later attached to 21st Special Ops. Great Ride and easy to maintain.

Mark McAtee, e-mail, 20.04.2014reply

I served with the 302nd SOS in the 70's and parts of the 80's I was the structural /fuel repair mechanic for those Ch-3s fun and best of times

Tom Septer, 20.02.2013reply

I enjoyed working on the CH-3 and HH-3 in Ethopia, Africa
and Brazil, S. America 1964 thru 1968. We flew three of
the helicopters from Topeka, Kansas (Forbes AFB). What a
trip. Was used in the mapping of Ethopia.

Ron Jones, e-mail, 16.09.2013reply

@ Bill Feller... Yes you were. I was the last crew chief of 3290 before it got packed up.

Marie Christine, e-mail, 16.09.2010reply

Amazing Thing. some time i just wonder, how human's mind works. Really Nature is above all

armando martinez, e-mail, 24.12.2010reply

i used to work on and fly on hh-3e and the ch model with the 129RQW

Dick Harris, e-mail, 07.03.2011reply

I flew the HH-3E in 1966 out of Udorn. I still run through the start up and procedures in my head after all these years. Believe I could still fly one!!

Zorro, e-mail, 17.03.2011reply

Anyone in the 302 SOS at the time of the MGM Grand fire? If so, where you there? Did you know Dave Ellis?

Zorro, e-mail, 17.03.2011reply

Anyone in the 302 SOS at the time of the MGM Grand fire? If so, where you there? Did you know Dave Ellis?

Jerry Fletcher, e-mail, 25.06.2011reply

yes I was a FE on one for 20 years with the 302nd SOS and air sea rescue

Jerry Fletcher, e-mail, 25.06.2011reply

I know a pilot named Dave Ellis And yes I was a FE on the CH3 in Las Vagas and recived a Distinguisehed Flying Cross for my part in the rescue

Raymond Christopher, e-mail, 22.09.2022 Jerry Fletcher

Jerry, Chris. Dave lives just North of Denver, CO.


proud son of a Jolly pilot, 14.08.2011reply

To all that have served THANK YOU.... My father flew them with the 21st SOS and 302nd (luke)

Some Retired MSgt, e-mail, 12.09.2011reply

I was NCOIC of Intel with the 302nd, but wasn't on scene when they ferried so many off the MGM grand. If you saw the people jumping from the World Trade Center, you'll understand the importance of immediate action as the flames flowed up. I'm proud to have been present when Jerry Fletcher and the others were awarded the medal for their heroism, as a chopper will fall like a rock when it hits that thinner, superheated air, even when not overloaded. By '75, 676 didn't have a sheet of aluminum on her that wasn't replaced or patched at least once. She saved more lives than can fit in her, and only looked black during when there weren't any US choppers upcountry. Any photos of a CH-3 in Long Chieng were probably just airbrushed there by those Pathet Lao pranksters as propaganda to make poor President Nixon look insincere.

Martin, e-mail, 27.04.2012reply

I was a passenger in a Jolly Green from Marble Mtn to Phubai...what power and a smooth ride too. We went 75 miles in a matter of minutes! I'll never forget that ride!!!

Bill Feller, e-mail, 06.07.2013reply

I was the last Flight Engineer to fly 66-13290 at Kadena AB, Okinawa Japan before it was sent to the Smithsonian and 67-14703 in Robbins. 703 was the only HH-3E, as far as I know, to fly in two wars and I was on it when it crossed into enemy territory during Desert Storm, besides flying it into the museum. It is to bad they changed from the desert paint to the old camo. It could have been the only one with the desert paint. If you go to the museum we all (the crew) signed the Aux door and it is covered with plexiglass to preserve the signatures.

mark harris, e-mail, 29.07.2012reply

I was in the 302nd at luke for a few years as a reservist.It was a great unit and the sunday afternoon parties we legendary. Things got sad after the loss of the chopper at Ghila Bend which killed our squadron commander and the green berets on a training mission.The ch-3 was a great old bird. I remember the one called patches which had over 50 patches on it from Viet Nam.

Anonymous, 13.07.2022 mark harris

All you say about unit cohesiveness is what I observed at Luke, even later at D-M. For years, I had the GREAT privilege of being a long-term "guest intel puke" from AFIS /RE DET 37 just down the road. Always, I was welcomed as one of the family. My ASU ROTC buddy Steve Wright was a CH-3 pilot, who introduced me to the PJs... I jumped most often w / Mike Miles & heroic (!) Jon Hoberg. We often used Luke Aux 1 NW of Luke, as later did the Reserve Army 297th SF (ABN) unit on Oak St - another "band of brothers!" Just for the record, the awful, demoralizing CH-3 accident occurred when A /C #2 in a 2-ship flight out of D-M had its antenna snap & foul the tail rotor, causing an immediate crash. This occurred just NW of TUS near Silverbell by Avra Valley Road. The memorial service at DM was perhaps the somberest and heart-wrenching event I ever attended. Even now... after 30-some years?


Kenton R Brown, e-mail, 13.07.2022 Anonymous

With the conversion to UH-60s (?), the last CH-3 was being prepped for export. I stood on the D-M flight line when the last CH-3 departed for Central America (Honduras) as a FMS deal. No one applauded, and we parachutists would miss the starboard door stand-up departure. Who doesn't hate jumping a UH-1 or HH-60? I watched it until it until it disappeared between the Rincons & Sierra Ritas. A sad day in USAF aviation annuls.


Ed Smith, e-mail, 06.01.2014reply

I flew CH-3s with the 20th out of Udorn ('66-67), then with the 1371st Photo Mappers (2 ferry trips from Forbes to Brazilia), and finally with the 302 SOS. Jerry Fletcher was our Flt Engineer during the MGM fire. Flew 676 (Black Maria) both with 20th & 302nd. Gave the AF Museum information pertaining to original configuration. Would like to find Dave Ellis also, or any other guys from that era. Great times.

J. Crawford, e-mail, 16.04.2013reply

We have a Ch-3e, USAF S /N 65-5690, Jolly 45, at the McClellan Aero Space Museum in Sacramento, CA. I am the crew chief and I am looking for photos of this aircraft in flight or on the ground from 1965 to 1993. It was put in the museum in 1993 so photos after that are plentiful. If you flew in this Jolly or any other stop by when your in town.

1-20 21-40

Do you have any comments ?

Name   E-mail

Virtual Aircraft Museum

All the World's Rotorcraft