Explainers

Sea King: The anti-submarine warfare helicopter that gave nearly 50 years of service

British Sea King helicopters were retired after nearly 50 years of service in 2018.

Primarily designed for performing anti-submarine warfare the Sea King helicopter completed its last-ever flight over Portsmouth Harbour, before landing at Gosport's HMS Sultan where it was stored.

As well as anti-submarine warfare, the helicopter had been used for search-and-rescue missions, general duties, and carrying Royal Marines commandos into action in the Falklands, Iraq, the Balkans, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan.

After UK service

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) confirmed that the UK delivered Ukraine the helicopter as a sign of 'unwavering' support in their war with Russia.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said it will be the first time piloted aircraft are sent to the war-torn nation since Russia's invasion.

The Royal Navy has trained 10 crews of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and engineers on the Sea King, the MOD said.

This was not the first time the helicopter had been sent to other nations as in 2019 Norway's Bardufoss Air Station was gifted a retired Mk4 Commando Sea King helicopter from Britain's Commando Helicopter Force.

The gift was to thank the Norwegian military for the years of support they have provided British servicemen and women while carrying out cold weather training in the Arctic.

British Sea Kings making their final flight in 2018.

Specifications 

First manufactured by AgustaWestland in the UK, the Sea King helicopter had its first maiden flight in May 1969.

It can carry four torpedoes and could also be armed with four mk11 depth charges.

The helicopter can carry two anti-ship missiles, either Sea Eagle (an all-weather, fire-and-forget, sea-skimming anti-ship missile, with a range of 100km) or Exocet.

Stats

Sea King HAS.5

Entered service

1981

Crew:

2-4

Max take-off weight:

21,400 lb (9,707 kg)

Empty weight:

14,051 lb (6,373 kg)

Length:

55 ft 10 in (17.02 m)

Height:

16 ft 10 in (5.13 m)

Engines:

2 x Rolls-Royce H 1400 Gnome turboshaft engines

Cruise speed:

112 kn (129 mph, 207 km/h) (max cruise at sea level)

Armament

4 x Mark 44, Mark 46 or Sting Ray torpedoes, or 4 x Depth charges

 

Provision for a door-mounted machine gun

Watch: Decommissioned Sea King given a new role as gate guardian at Norwegian Air Station.

Immersive experience

An entrepreneur purchased three former RAF Sea King helicopters and transformed them into glamping (a glamorous form of camping) units open to the public.

The pods are made of ex-RAF Sea King helicopters which were bought as shells when they were decommissioned and restored over five years by a local businessman.

One of the aircraft that is set to be set up as a cafe kiosk, is reportedly the one that the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William flew whilst serving.

Image ID 2HX4EKP Decommissioned Royal Navy ZA127 Sea King Helicopter turned into a hotel room 08032022 CREDIT Derek Thomson,Alamy Stock Photo.jpg EXP 23112023.jpg
A decommissioned Royal Navy ZA127 Sea King helicopter turned into a hotel room located at Mains Farm, Thornhill, Stirlingshired into a hotel room (Picture: Derek Thomson/ Alamy).

Prince William

In 2013, Prince William left his post as a search and rescue (SAR) Sea King helicopter pilot for the RAF.

Flight Lieutenant Wales, as he was known in the RAF, completed a tour with the RAF SAR Force at RAF Valley, Anglesey, after more than seven-and-a-half years of full-time military service.

The Duke was based at RAF Valley, where he has served as a fully operational SAR pilot.

In his time there, he undertook a total of 156 search and rescue operations, resulting in 149 people being rescued. The Duke completed over 1,300 flying hours with the RAF.