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Final farewell tour for Sea King over Devon and Cornwall

After almost 50 years of service, the last military Sea King helicopters flying in the UK will retire at the end of September 2018.

In recognition of the Sea King Mk7 helicopter and the role it has played in many operational conflicts, some of the remaining aircraft have performed a three-hour farewell tour of the skies of Devon and Cornwall. 

Two Sea Kings left their base at RNAS Culdrose in Helston, Cornwall on Wednesday morning for a three-hour loop across the two counties.

The Sea King Mk7 ‘Airborne Surveillance and Control’ helicopters have been the ‘eyes in the sky’ of the Navy since 2003, searching for aerial threats to the Fleet – or suspicious movements on the ground in support of land forces. 

Throughout the Royal Navy, the aircraft are known as the 'Baggers'.

The nickname due to their distinctive inflatable black sack or bag on the side of each helicopter which contains the Searchwater 2000 radar capable for detecting surface and air targets.

Sea Kings have deployed to many conflict areas, including the Gulf and in Afghanistan where during their five-year mission, they carried out over 2,000 operational sorties in temperatures ranging between 55˚C and -15˚C. 

Sea Kings farewell
Britain's fleet of Sea King Mk7s have served in conflicts around the world since 1969.

The capability that the Baggers have delivered is to be transferred to the more modern Merlin Mk2 helicopters under a project called Crowsnest.

Chris Hughes, Commanding Officer of 849 Squadron, described it as an emotional day:

"The Sea King has been around for 49 years so it's going to be very sad to see her go.

"But all good things must come to an end so this is an opportunity for us to say goodbye to one aircraft but say hello to another one.

"It's certainly something that's very special for us. It'll probably be quite dusty when we land-on as people shed the occasional tear but it'll be sad to see the 'Old Girl' go; we're very fond of her".

Sea King helicopter final farewell 190918 v2 CREDIT SWNS
The helicopter has been in service for nearly half a century (Picture: SWNS).