Naval Air: Sea King Fades Away


December 24, 2011: The Royal Australian Navy has retired the last of its Sea King helicopters. Only four Sea Kings remained, out of 12 bought in the 1970s and 80s. The Sea Kings are being replaced by ten ton MRH90s. This helicopter can carry 21 troops or twelve casualties on stretchers plus the crew of two. It first flew in 1995. The manufacturer is a consortium of French, German, Dutch, and Italian firms.

Two years ago the U.S. Navy also retired its last UH-3H Sea King helicopters and transferred most of the remaining ones to the U.S. Marine Corps. The navy was once the largest operator of the UH-3, using hundreds of them for anti-submarine warfare, as well as transporting personnel and supplies plus search and rescue.

The nine ton Sea King is a late 1950s design and contemporary of the U.S. Army's UH-1 "Huey". In the U.S., the Sea Kings were replaced by a navy version of the Hueys successor, the UH-60 Blackhawk. Over a dozen other navies bought the Sea King and many still use it. But these aircraft are getting old.

The Sea King has a range of about a thousand kilometers and a top speed of 210 kilometers an hour. It was mainly used for anti-submarine warfare and search and rescue. Some 1,500 were built (about ten percent were the civilian S-61 version) and about a hundred are still in use. Such long service lives are increasingly common. Some of the first Sea Kings survived for over three decades. And many of the navy Sea Kings will continue to serve with the marines, where even the U.S. president still travels aboard them.


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