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British Sea Kings complete final flight before retirement

British Sea King helicopters have completed their last ever flight.

The aircraft flew over Portsmouth Harbour on Wednesday, before landing at Gosport's HMS Sultan where they will be stored.

The flight from their base at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall took them past the Navy's hi-tech destroyer HMS Diamond and Portsmouth's landmark Spinnaker Tower.

The Sea King is being retired after nearly 50 years of service.

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

Sea King helicopter
The helicopters, nicknamed baggers, also provided airborne early warning and intelligence to the fleet and ground forces (Picture: SWNS).

A Navy spokesman said:

"It earned the 'bagger' tag after the Falklands conflict in 1982 when the airborne early warning variant was hurriedly introduced.

"The large black sack sticking out of the fuselage houses a powerful radar which scans the skies for potential threats.

"Those original baggers had one major flaw - they couldn't track hostile aircraft over land, a problem rectified when the much-improved MK7 entered service in 2001.

"It proved to be a revelation. Crews found that they could not only detect aerial threats, but they could also track vehicle movements on the ground.

"The MK7 proved indispensable in helping Allied forces to evade and ultimately destroy Saddam Hussein's army around Basra and the Al Faw peninsula in 2003.

"They also helped ground troops and police in Afghanistan arrest insurgents and seize masses of weapons and bomb-making equipment."

Sea King Helicopter
A total of 140 Sea Kings were built for the Royal Navy in their almost half-century of service (Picture: SWSN).

Last week, some of the remaining Sea King Mk7 helicopters performed a three-hour farewell tour across the skies of Devon and Cornwall.

The event was in recognition of the role it played in many operational conflicts.

In July, a Sea King appeared at the Royal Navy's only air show, when it was rushed from duty in the Persian Gulf to make its appearance at the RNAS Yeovilton Air Day.

The airborne surveillance and control role will be taken over by the new Merlin Crowsnest, which arrives at Culdrose next year and will operate from new carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales from 2020.

More: Would You Spend A Night In A Sea King Helicopter?