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The aged Sea King

>MoD cost cuts 'will put troops in peril'
By Thomas Harding and Graeme Wilson
(Filed: 15/05/2006)

The lives of troops will be put at risk if the Ministry of Defence goes ahead with plans to refurbish a fleet of vintage helicopters as a cost-cutting measure, defence sources said yesterday.

Servicemen, already concerned after the shooting down of a Lynx in Basra last week, said that if 30 Sea King helicopters were taken out of mothballs their low speed and poor performance in the desert heat would make them "sitting ducks".

An RAF helicopter flies over Iraq: the cost-cutting measure would ‘severely endanger lives’

A shortfall in the number of troop transport helicopters has led to defence chiefs proposing to bring former Royal Navy anti-submarine Sea Kings out of storage for use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The move has prompted a military engineer working on the helicopter programme to condemn the cost-cutting measure that would "severely endanger the lives of my colleagues".>

I would like to know who this 'military engineer' was! The phrase 'sitting duck' appears here and is woefully inaccurate. We have not lost any Sea King Helos in Telic to enemy fire. What evidence are they basing this on?

More sensationalist journalism, letting the Taliban in on our 'secrets'. Yes, the Sea King is an old aircraft, however they are doing the job thanks to the professionalism of our engineers and a lot of unseen hard work from behind the scenes. Stories like this really pee me off!


JD, I wouldn't be bothered over the sensational journalism. I would be more concerned over the story being true with regard to using old strpped out pinger aircraft to replace SH.

Aside from the expenditure required to re-introduce them into service, there is the problem of DAS (or the lack thereof) and the fact that even stripped out, the lift capability is severely reduced.

I would think that to replace the SH in question, the MoD would be better off investing the money in replacement SH! Now then, where are we with SABR? Dead in the water, that's where.

Short termism once again holding sway over a coherent long term solution........

Don't pay too much attention of the £10 million quoted that is way off mark, and as for stripped out pingers being used for SH I assume that you are familiar with the Mk6 CR?

You are correct, it hasn't got a full DAS Suite but has IRCM. However, they wouldn't be sent to theatre without it anyway.


War Hero
This is the direct result of MoD being unable to make decisions under "Smart" Procurement. The CHF has consistently been the hardest worked r/w force in the UK (bar none) throughout the nineties. Many of the SK4 airframes were bought before Corporate and although some were bought in the late eighties, the airframe hours and weight from mods are piling up. Very, very tired aircraft that weren't meant to be flown hot n' high and have supported EVERY major UK deployment since 1980. The conduct of the replacement (sorry - future capability) programme has been nothing short of criminal.

Future Amphibious Support Helo (FASH) became SABR (Support and Amphibious Battlefield Rotorcraft) in the name of jointery to help fix the Crab Wessex & Puma Replacements. This then became Future Rotorcraft Coherency (you've got to love these names!) when it became clear that all the money had been spent on studies and a bunch of Chinooks that can't fly.

We are now faced with the prospect of waiting for nearly ten years before FRC bears fruit. Whats worse is that the fruit is likely to be a medium lift helo from the West of England, not dissimilar to that flown by Crab Air and a large twin rotor helo from over the pond - again not dissimlar to that flown by Crab Air. NEITHER aircraft folds for shipboard stowage, although the medium helo does have rotor fold. I don't know whether they will be marinised in terms of materials and EMC, but am not holding my breath.....

As for digging up the Mk 6 cabs, they've already done that with a few airframes, but I had thought the majority had gone for good. I know 814s cabs ended up at Sultan as instructional airframes, so getting them airworthy will be interesting. More to the point, I'm pretty sure that the hot n' high performance will be close to SFA, although happy to be corrected by those who know better.

Time to buy the lads & lasses the kit that's needed and stop prevaricating. The amount spent on the NHS and Social security per annum is obscene when set against the minimal funds that actually get through the DPA to buy kit.


JD, indeed I am all too familiar with the CR. However, they were NOT activated to replace Mk4s. The original idea was to use them solely at VL for GH type curerency and thus go some way to alleviating the pressure on the Mk4 fleet.

Unfortunately, that pressure has become so great, as highlighted by Boffin above, CHF have been forced to use them in certain arenas.

I therefore stick to my previous assertion, stripped out pingers are not a replacement for SH.

Mk6CR's were introduced to backfill the gaps produced during AUP 1 and now subsequently AUP 2. They aren't ideal, but could fill a 'certain' in-theatre role (DAS suite pending) freeing up Mk4's.

An answer, however not a solution as you say.


War Hero
Can I make a radical proposal? Instead of further studies we buy Blackhawk. Yes I know that it is not as good as Merlin (RN or Crab) but I believe that you can buy 10 for the price of a Merlin, and they have the capablity to carry rockets etc to support the troops etc. This would be a simple and cost effective solution. Large heavy lift helicopters could be provided by more Chinnocks. By cancelling the future programs this idea could save a fortune, and provide a large number of reliable aircraft quickly. By then phasing out old and expensive to maintain Puma, Junglie Sea King and Crab SAR Sea King this could save a fortune, while at the same time providing effective kit in the right numbers. :D

I believe that the lesson of helicopter operations in Iraq is that you need to expect to loose a number of them, and that you need to have a large number of them available.

What do you think?


War Hero
Trouble with the Blackhawk is that ;

a. It's an old airframe (20 yrs) - even though the USN are getting new MH60s now
b. It won't lift a stick of Royals
c. it won't lift the artillery we want it to
d. Its not marinised (it could be, but it would cost).

Believe it or not, Merlin is probably the cheapest option, depending on MoD accounting rules, but NOT the Mk 3 version the crabs fly. The only other alternative is the NH90, which is smaller, but at least relatively modern and off the shelf.

If you wanted to be really radical you could look at Osprey or the new-build CH53 (X I think) that the USMC are trying to buy, but again, they ain't cheap.

The problem is not identifying the right helo - they are out there now. It is actually biting the bullet and saying we need these now, we can't go on as we are, you (HM Treasury) will need to fund them. Buying 30-40 decent helos now would be infinitely more cost-effective than spunking £8Bn into Africa to get Brown elected.

Pigs now pre-flighted and awaiting taxi-clearance.......


The trouble with Blackhawk, NH 90, CH53, Osprey, great aircraft though they are, is none of them will win any votes for the government when it comes to building them.

Unless they can be built under licence by Wastelands with a significant proportion of their bits being British - like RR engines - we just ain't going to get them.

Which brings us back to FRC and why we will all be in our cold graves by the time any decision is made on it and contracts signed. It will be son of Merlin (I believe there is a Mk4 on the drawing board at Wastelands which has all the marinised goodies ready to go).

There is no short or medium term fix to the SH problem (no money) and unless someone upstairs kicks someone in the treasury sharpish (before Brown gets to be PM and totally hoses the Armed Forces), the long term solution is looking quite dodgy too.

It's bleak, but that's the truth. SK4s flying until 2017? You heard it here first......



Re: The aged Sea King SH - look at the Italians EH-101

Italian Navy went that way fo stripping their ASH-3D for supporting their San Marco Marines and at SBAC Farnborough 2004, I saw their EH-101 ASH which is just battlefield EH-101

I have flown the EH-101 simulator (operated by CAE) at MSHATF at RAF Benson.

For you junglies, with the advent of the JHC and having Wokka's on board the OCEAN , I can see the RAF EH-101 s being on board shortly so put 2 and 2 together.....and see if 4 fits in

SABR/SCBR or H or whatever, may change names but looks like the equipment won;t change as fast!! 8) 8O

Let me know your thoughts please


Lantern Swinger
I thought that the Sea King was a damn good helicopter, what is the reason why it won't cut the mustard now? have I missed something?


War Hero
I have heard a worrying rumour that the RAF Merlin can not fold its tail... do you know if this is true? If so, it would limit its use at sea...

The Sea King was good in its day, but is not needed to be flown in conditions that it was never intended for, ie hot and high, and it is old.


War Hero
Stumpy - its not a rumour, it's a fact. Merlin HC3 has no tail rotor fold and I don't know whether its been EMC'd for shipboard use.

The jungly replacement (should it ever come to pass) might end up being a mix of Crab Merlins (if we're really lucky they'll put a folding rotor and sort the avionics) and Chinooks which cannot and will never be modified to fold. If I tell you the length of a Wokka turning and burning is around 30m and the lifts on Ocean are about 18m long, you'll see the slight flaw in the plan..........

Skunkmeister - the SK WAS a damn good aircraft, in the same way that the Ford Cortina WAS a good(?) car, twenty-odd years ago. They're just very heavy and very tired now - time for the retirement home for them......
Flew in H-3s in '69 & '70 (SH-3A).. Workhorse by any standards... tried & true like the C-130... just getting old... saltair & banging deckplates are hard on an airframe...

Newer is not always better.. ya don't get sumtin for nuttin.... some of the newer fixedwing USN platforms did not last like the older airframes (wonder metals were not so worderful in the long run)
Can't imagine that it is beyond the wit of man to fit a folding tail to the Merlin Mk3. The Navy version has it, so it should be a straight-ish read across.


War Hero
Beyond the wit of man, no. Beyond the wit of DEC(ALM), DPA & Westlands.......hmmmmm?

The crab Merlin has a ramp at the aft end of the cabin, so its a marginally different airframe to the Navy HM1. I can only begin to imagine the difficulties and cost fitting a folding t/r will entail...........


Lantern Swinger
On my last trip stateside on OCEAN, Boeing gave us a visit. They were very interested in Chinooks and our lifts. Word was they were considering a blade fold design in order to be a contender for SABR.

With VIKING weighing in at 10 tonnes and CH 53X too heavy (and too far off) for most of our decks it is the only way ahead. The hard bit will be avoiding an ugraded Merlin that will barely lift a lightweight 155 and nowhere near a Viking.



I think you might find that the last Sea King pilot could well be born in 2020 ish as the out of service date could be 2040 ish for the last of the Mark 4/6CRs. Now that is a scary thought as the basic design would be gusting 85 years old.
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