Aircraft

Sea King Finds New Role As Gate Guardian At Norwegian Air Station

The helicopter is a gift to thank the Norwegian military after 50 years of hosting British personnel taking part in cold weather training.

Norway’s Bardufoss Air Station has been gifted a retired Mk4 Commando Sea King helicopter from Britain's Commando Helicopter Force.

The gift is 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.

The Sea King will now serve as Bardufoss’s gate guardian – 200 miles within the freezing Arctic Circle.

Both Norwegian and British service personnel attended the ceremony.

The British Armed Forces have long used the air station as a base for personnel participating in Exercise Clockwork and the helicopter previously visited to take part in operations there.

Speaking to Forces News, Lieutenant Commander Gareth Plunkett said both Norwegians and members of Commando Helicopter Force had a “huge emotional attachment” to the Sea King:

"It was the aircraft of choice to learn in," Lieutenant Commander Plunkett said.

"It’s been brought all the way out here as the gate guard just as a symbol for the Norwegians of our special relationship with the nation and the enduring time we’re going to spend here at Clockwork.

"Celebrating the 50th year now but looking forward to the future as well."

Personnel at Bardufoss survey their new gate guardian.

Bardufoss' new gate guardian saw service in the Gulf War and the Balkans in the 1990s.

In September 1994 it was hit by nine machine-gun rounds while flying to Sarajevo and its fuel tanks, tail and main rotor blade were damaged.

It was retired from service in 2016 when the Commando Helicopter Force decided to replace the Sea Kings with more advanced Merlins.

In December it began its long journey from HMS Sultan’s helicopter graveyard to Bardufoss.

After its engines were stripped out, the Sea King was airlifted by an RAF Chinook to Marchwood Military Port.

The helicopter then travelled by ferry to the Norwegian port of Sørreisa, where it was placed onto a low loader and driven to Bardufoss for the official ceremony handing her over to the air station.

Attending the event was Richard Wood, Britain’s Ambassador to Norway:  

“Fifty years after Exercise Clockwork began, Norway remains the best place to conduct severe winter training,” Mr Wood said.

“The reason we carry out this training is because we are committed to our Norway ally and the protection of NATO’s Northern Flank.

“The Sea King being here is a reminder of the relationship between Norway and the UK. It will stand guard over the entrance of this air station. It represents our thanks for Norway’s hospitality, comradeship and close relationship.”

Exercise Clockwork is likely to continue for some time to come.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has committed the Royal Marines and their support arms to defending NATO's Northern Flank, meaning cold weather training in the Arctic will be a crucial component of the corps's diary for the foreseeable future.