The Royal Navy's new Sea King anti-submarine helicopters are going into full-time service operating from aircraft carriers.
The Royal Navy's new Sea King anti-submarine helicopters are going into full-time service operating from aircraft carriers. On Friday (22 January), the helicopters were put through their paces aboard the H.M.S. Eagle, a 50,000-ton aircraft carrier, in the Bristol Channel.
A major role of the Sea King is detection and destruction of submarines. Friday's operations saw the aircraft searching for "Enemy" submarines, trailing their sonar electronic search gear in the water beneath them as they swept the area.
The Sea King is an adaptation of the American Sikorsky S-61 helicopter, an aircraft already in service with the U.S. armed forces as well as in civilian form with a number of airlines throughout the world. It is well-known as the standard air-sea rescue helicopter of the U.S. Navy and has been in use as the recovery aircraft for the Americans manned space programme.
The Sea King is built under licence in Britain by Westland and has a normal operating speed of 131 miles per hour (211 kmh). Its range of 1,105 miles (1,778 km) makes it particularly attractive to the Royal Navy for sea-borne work, allowing it a greater operating radius than most helicopters in current service with the British fleet.
Having both retractable undercarriage and inflatable buoyancy bags, the helicopter can work from both land and water.
West Germany, Norway and India are also interested in Sea Kings for their navies. In addition to its anti-submarine role, the helicopter can serve as a rescue craft, a transport or a strike aircraft.
The H.M.S. Eagle, with a crew of over 2,000, has six Sea kings on constant operational status. After initial trials off the British coast, the carrier is due to sail to Gibraltar and then into the Mediterranean Sea.