Sikorsky SH-3D "Sea King" Helicopter

The Sikorsky S-61, better known by its US military designation H-3 Sea King, is a twin-engined multi-purpose helicopter. It serves with the United States Navy and other forces, and in many countries around the world.

Designed by Sikorsky, the Sea King first flew in 1959, and was 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 H-3. It was intended from the start to be used for shipboard operations (e.g., the five main rotor blades as well as tail section with its five blades can be folded for easy stowage). 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. For flight operations the helicopter is the first aircraft in the air and the last to land serving as plane guard and SAR for the fixed winged aircraft. 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 still in US Navy service are used in the logistics support, range support, Search and Rescue, test, and VIP transport roles.

The Westland Sea King variant was manufactured under license by Westland Helicopters, Ltd. in the United Kingdom, who developed a specially modified version for the Royal Navy. It is powered by a pair of British Rolls-Royce Bristol Gnome turbines, and has British avionics and ASW equipment. This variant first flew in 1969, and entered service the next year. It was also used by the Royal Air Force and has been sold round the world. Aircraft were also manufactured under license in Japan.

Countries to which the Sea King has been exported include Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, India, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Thailand, Venezuela and the United Kingdom.

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, sonobouys, Magnetic Anomaly Detector, and Data link. 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.

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 few minutes. The sponsons were fitted with deployable airbags to enhance floatation.

A Sea King is used as the official helicopter 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.

The S-61 was also built under licence in Italy by Agusta.

Specifications for the SH-3

  • Crew: 4 (2 pilots, 2 ASW systems operators)

  • Capacity: 3 passengers

  • Length: 54 ft 9 in (16.7 m)

  • Rotor diameter: 62 ft (19 m)

  • Height: 16 ft 10 in (5.13 m)

  • Disc area: ft (m)

  • Empty weight: 11,865 lb (5,382 kg)

  • Loaded weight: 18,626 lb (8,449 kg)

  • Max takeoff weight: 22,050 lb (10,000 kg)

  • Powerplant: 2 General Electric T58-GE-10 turboshafts, 1,400 shp (kW) each

  • Maximum speed: 166 mph (267 km/h)

  • Range: 621 mi (1,000 km)

  • Service ceiling: 14,700 ft (4,481 m)

  • Rate of climb: 1,310-2,220 ft/min (400-670 m/min)

Armed with:

  • 2 Mk 46/44 anti-submarine torpedoes (SH-3H)

  • Various sonobouys and pyrotechnic devices

  • B-57 Nuclear depth charge

  • door guns (some variants)


Return to Main Page