Westland Sea King HU.5
Status: Flying 2018
The S61 helicopter is perhaps one of the most successful rotary aircraft ever built and the Westland Sea King is a British licence-built version of the famous Sikorsky, built by Westland Helicopters (now Leonardo). The UK aircraft was considerably modified from the American version, with Rolls-Royce Gnome engines, a British-made anti-submarine warfare systems and a fully computerised flight control system. Although the Sea King was primarily designed for performing anti-submarine warfare (ASW) missions, several modifications ensured over the years and it performed for the British military (primarily the Royal Navy) in a number of roles as follows:
MK1, Mk2, Mk5 and Mk6 – ASW version
Mk3 and Mk5 – Search and Rescue version (Mk3 with RAF)
Mk4 – Commando lift version
Mk2 then Mk7 – AEW then Airborne Surveillance and Control version
The S61/Sea King also proved popular world-wide and it has seen service with (amongst others) Denmark, USA, Germany, Australia, Norway, Belgium, India, Pakistan, Egypt and Qatar. In British service, it has served with distinction in several conflicts including the Falklands War, the Gulf War, the Balkans conflict, the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War. It was also extremely well known in the Search and Rescue (SAR) role and in the RN, it undertook this role with both 771 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall and 819 NAS at HMS Gannet in Ayrshire.
This particular airframe (XV 666) is well known within the Royal Navy, where the aircrew generally referred to it as ‘Damien’ for obvious reasons. It started life in 1970 with 826 NAS, where it saw service in HMS Eagle as a Helicopter Anti-Submarine (HAS) Mk1, before being transferred to 706 NAS in 1978 post conversion to a HAS Mk2. In 1980, it was transferred to 814 NAS in HMS Bulwark, before shifting to 824 NAS in RFA Olna for the Falklands War in Feb 1982. It returned to 706 NAS in Oct of that year before being returned to the Royal Navy Aircraft Yard at Fleetlands for conversion to HAS Mk 5 in 1986. In Mar 1987, it returned to 814 NAS where it was embarked in HMS Illustrious before moving to 771 NAS in the SAR role in Feb 1993. In Mar 2003 it underwent a conversion to the Helicopter Utility Role (HU Mk5) by having the sonar removed and thereafter returned to 771 NAS in 2004, where it remained until retirement from Service in Apr 2016. The final chapter of XV 666’s life began in Jun 2017, when it was leased from the MoD by Heli Operations for use in training the Federal German Navy and it remains there to this day, operating out of the old HMS Osprey site at Portland in Dorset. Heli Operations are a major Corporate Supporter of Navy Wings and we look forward to seeing ‘Damien’ as an integral member of the Collection, at many of the Navy Wings events in the coming years.