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Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King

US Navy SH-3H Sea King helicopters (Source: U.S. Navy)

The Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King (company designation S-61) is an American twin-engined anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter. It served with the United States Navy and other forces, and continues to serve in many countries around the world. The Sea King has been built under license in Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom.


In 1957, Sikorsky was awarded a contract to develop an all-weather amphibious helicopter. It would combine submarine hunter and killer roles. The prototype flew on March 11, 1959. It became operational with the United States Navy in June 1961 as the HSS-2. The designation for the aircraft was changed with the introduction of the unified aircraft designation system in 1962 to the SH-3A. It was used primarily for anti-submarine warfare, but also served in anti-ship, search and rescue, transport, communications, executive transport and Airborne Early Warning roles


It was designed for shipboard operations, as the five main rotor blades as well as tail section with its five blades can be folded for easy stowage. Because of its amphibious hull, the Sea King has the ability to land on water. However, this is a risky maneuver and used only in emergencies, as the hull can only remain watertight for a limited period of time.[citation needed] The sponsons were fitted with deployable airbags to enhance floatation.

Armaments and equipment of Sea Kings vary widely with their role. Typical armaments can be four torpedoes, four depth charges or two anti-ship missiles (Sea Eagle or Exocet). A large Chaff Pod was sometimes carried for anti-ship missile defense of the Carrier Battle Group. ASW equipment included a dipping sonar AQS81B with a 500 foot cable and 5000 watts of power, 21 sonobuoys, Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD Bird), and Data link to transmit sonar and sonobuoy data to the rest of the Fleet. In the Search and Rescue role the cabin can accommodate 22 survivors or nine stretchers and two medical officers. In the troop transport role 28 soldiers can be accommodated.

Operational service

Aircraft carriers always deployed the Sea King as the first aircraft in the air and the last to land serving in air operations as plane guard and SAR for the fixed winged aircraft. An SH-3A, operating from the USS New Orleans amphibious assault ship, was used in the February 1971 Apollo 14 recovery mission.

Three Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King helicopters from helicopter anti-submarine squadron HS-6 Indians, flying over the aircraft carrier USS Kearsarge (CVS-33), Circa 1963. (Source: U.S. Navy)

In the US Navy, it was replaced in the ASW and S&R roles by the SH-60 Sea Hawk during the 1990s, but continues in service for other roles, for ASW in the reserves, and around the world. All H-3 aircraft in US Navy service are used in the logistics support, range support, Search and Rescue, test, and VIP transport roles. The H-3 was finally retired on January 27, 2006 in a Final Flight ceramony in NAS Norfolk, Virginia, by Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 2 (HC-2), the Fleet Angels.

A Sea King is used as one of the official helicopters of the President of the United States and is operated by the United States Marine Corps. It is known as Marine One when the president is actually aboard.

Wikipedia: Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King