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H-3 Sea King

The H-3 Sea King (also known as Sikorsky S-61) is a twin-engined multi-purpose helicopter. It served with the United States Navy and other forces, and in many countries around the world.

Table of contents
1 Overview
2 Canadian Experience
3 External Links
4 H-3 Variants
5 H-3 Stats


Designed by Sikorsky, the Sea King first flew in 1959, and was operational with the United States Navy in June 1961. It was intended from the start to be used for shipboard operations. The five-bladed rotors can be folded for easy stowage. It was used primarily for anti-submarine warfare, but also served in anti-ship, search and rescue, transport, communications, executive transport and Airborne Early Warning, roles. In the US Navy it was replaced in the ASW and S&R roles by the SH-60F Sea Hawk during the 1990s, but continues in service for other roles, for ASW in the reserves, and around the world. All H-3 aircraft still in U.S. Navy service are used in the logistics support, range support, Search and Rescue, test, and VIP transport roles.

The Sea King was manufactured under license by Westland Helicopters, Ltd. in the United Kingdom, who developed a specially modified version for the Royal Navy. It is powered by a pair of British Rolls-Royce Bristol Gnome turbines, and has British avionics and ASW equipment. This variant first flew in 1969, and entered service the next year. It was also used by the Royal Air Force and has been sold round the world. Aircraft were also manufactured under license in Japan.

Countries to which the Sea King has been exported include Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Germany, India, Japan, Malaysia, Norway, Pakistan, Qatar, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Armaments and equipment of Sea Kings vary widely with their role. Typical armaments can be four torpedoes, four depth charges or two anti-ship missiles (Sea Eagle or Exocet). In the Search and Rescue role the cabin can accommodate 22 survivors or nine stretchers and two medical officers. In the troop transport role 28 soldiers can be accommodated.

A "Sea King" is used as the official helicopter of the President of the United States, operated by the United States Marines. It is known as "Marine One" when The Chief is actually aboard.

Canadian Experience

The Canadian Navy purchased 41 Sea Kings in 1963. The helicopters at that time were state of the art and served well, being well liked by crews. The Canadian forces developed a technique for landing the huge helicopters on small ship decks, using a 'hauldown' winch, that earned them them nickname of 'Crazy Canucks'.

As the Sea Kings have aged, however, they have become increasingly unreliable and hard to maintain. Twelve have crashed, killing ten people. Each Sea King now requires over 30 manhours of maintenance for every hour flying, a figure described by the Canadian Naval Officers Association as "grossly disproportionate" [1]. They are unavailable for operations 40% of the time. The Sea Kings are now widely perceived as unreliable, outdated and expensive to maintain, both inside and outside the service. In late 2003 the entire fleet was grounded (except for essential operations) for a few weeks after two aircraft lost power within a few days of each other.

Efforts to replace the helicopters have been hampered by political considerations. In 1992 the Tory government announced the purchase of EH-101 helicopters to replace them. However on a change of government in 1993 the incoming Liberals immediately cancelled the order (paying cancellation fees of $500 million Canadian).

See also:

Canadian Sea King pilots have composed a "theme song" for their service, sung to the tune of the 1970s pop hit "Seasons in the Sun" beginning
Goodbye papa, please pray for me
My helicopter's crashing in the sea.
The chorus runs
We had joy, we had fun, we had Sea Kings in the sun
But the engines are on fire and the Sea Kings must retire.

Photo courtesty of the Naval Helicopter Association

External Links

H-3 Variants

H-3 Stats





Photo courtesy of the Naval Helicopter Association