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Sikorsky Combat Rescue Helicopters demonstrated their production readiness during rigorous USAF performance testing at the Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Fla. Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin.

​Sikorsky can now start building small numbers of the Air Force’s new Combat Rescue Helicopter, the HH-60W, for operational use.

The Lockheed Martin subsidiary announced Sept. 24 that the Air Force greenlighted milestone C for the helicopter program, meaning it meets the development requirements to be able to start low-rate initial production.

The Air Force wants to buy 22 helicopters in the first two of eight total lots, and is working toward full-rate production in fiscal 2021.

The HH-60W is replacing older HH-60G Pave Hawks in a $7.1 billion procurement program covering 103 operational helicopters.

Sikorsky told Air Force Magazine earlier this year a contract to start building the first 10 helos will be signed by the end of September.

Deliveries will start in the second quarter of fiscal 2021.