Here’s Our First Look At A British Supplied Sea King Helicopter In Ukrainian Service

Sea King Ukraine
Former British military Sea King in Ukrainian service (Frames from Oleksiy Reznikov's video)

First British Sea King helicopter has been delivered and received Ukrainian markings.

The Ukrainian Navy has received the first WS-61 Sea King helicopter supplied by the UK. The video, providing a first look at the former Royal Navy helicopter sporting Ukrainian markings was posted by the Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov on Jan. 21, 2023, in a tweet to thank British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace for the donation.

On Nov. 23, 2022, BBC reported, citing U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, that the UK would give three Sea King helicopters. Three days later, on Nov. 26, 2022, the UK Defense Ministry said the UK would train 10 aircrews to use the helicopters to enhance the Ukrainian SAR (Search And Rescue) capabilities.

The Sea King shown in the Ukrainian Defense Minister’s tweet has a paint scheme that is similar to the one used on the Mi-24V attack helicopters donated by Czech Republic, that sport a large Ukrainian flag on the nose and white bands on the tail boom.

The Westland Sea King is a British license-built version of the American Sikorsky S-61 helicopter. Both the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy operated the helicopter. The RN’s Sea King fleet was based at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall, and was operated by 771, 849, 824 and 814 Naval Air Squadrons. The Sea Kings also operated from Royal Navy warships.

The Sea King entered service in 1969 and was used in various operations, including the Falklands War, the Gulf War, the Balkans conflict as well as Afghanistan. Its primary role was anti-submarine warfare (ASW) missions and SAR although several variants were developed for different tasks, such as ship-based AEW (Airborne Early Warning) and troop transportation.

The Sea King HC.4 / Westland Commando was a variant specifically designed for the Royal Navy’s Commando Helicopter Force (CHF). The Sea King HC.4 was a modified version of the ASW helicopter, with the major difference being the addition of a winch and hoist for the insertion and extraction of troops and equipment. The Commando variant was also equipped with additional armor and self-defense systems to protect against ground fire.

The last remaining Sea King helicopter in Royal Navy service was retired on Sept. 26, 2018.

Interestingly, as pointed out by our reader Niek van der Zande, on Dec. 21, 2022, one Sea King was noted on ADS-B over Germany during the delivery flight. It showed serial ZA166 and callsign URHO10.  Based on the logs from Radarbox, it flew from Koksijde to Erfurt on that day. Provided the serial is correct, that was initially a Sea King HAS.5, an upgraded anti-submarine warfare version Sea King for the Royal Navy that was later stripped out of all the ASW gear for use as SAR aircraft and designated HU5 (Helicopter Utility).

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.