UK Provides Retired Sea King Helicopters as a Lifeline to Support Ukraine’s Defense


The United Kingdom Ministry of Defence has agreed to send helicopters to Ukraine for the first time since Russia’s invasion. First inducted in 1969, the last one was decommissioned from Royal Navy service in 2018. In 1918, one of the greatest modern aircraft designers, Igor Sikorsky from Kyiv, was forced by the Bolshevik coup to move to the United States. A century later, the Sikorsky S-61 Sea King helicopters invented with his genius will defend his native land. The Royal Navy provided a six-week programme of Sea King training for 10 crews of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and associated engineers.

In addition to the three former British military Sea King helicopters, the first of which has already arrived in war-torn Ukraine, the U.K. will also supply an additional 10,000 artillery rounds.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak used a weekend visit to the Ukrainian capital to set out a new £50 million ($59 million) package of defense aid which included 125 anti-aircraft guns and equipment to counter Iranian-supplied drones. Britain is also supplying cold-weather winter kit to the Ukrainian armed forces. Ukrainian troops face plummeting temperatures as they battle through the winter to eject Russian forces from occupied Ukrainian territory.

The Westland WS-61 Sea King is a British licence-built version of the American Sikorsky S-61 helicopter of the same name, built by Westland Helicopters.

The aircraft differs considerably from the American version, with Rolls-Royce Gnome engines (derived from the US General Electric T58), British-made anti-submarine warfare systems and a fully computerised flight control system. The Sea King was primarily designed for performing anti-submarine warfare (ASW) missions. A Sea King variant known as the Commando was devised by Westland to serve as a troop transport. In British service, the Sea King provided a wide range of services in both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.

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