Naval Warfare

Indian Navy Bids Farewell to Sikorsky UH-3 Sea King Utility Transport Helicopter

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Indian Navy Bids Farewell to Sikorsky UH-3 Sea King Utility Transport Helicopter

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Indian Navy Bids Farewell to Sikorsky UH-3 Sea King Utility Transport Helicopter
Indian Navy Bids Farewell to Sikorsky UH-3 Sea King Utility Transport Helicopter

On June 28, 2024, the Indian Navy officially retired the Sikorsky UH-3H Sea King utility transport helicopter, marking the end of an era for Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 350 Saaras. The de-induction ceremony, held at INS Dega in Visakhapatnam, was presided over by Vice Admiral Sameer Saxena, Chief of Staff, Eastern Naval Command. The event saw the presence of veteran officers and sailors from INAS 350, along with their families, who gathered to commemorate the distinguished service of the UH-3H Sea King. One of the UH-3H helicopters will be permanently displayed at a prominent location in Visakhapatnam as a tribute to its service. INAS 350 will replace the retiring aircraft with the Sea King Mk42C, currently operated by the Marine Commando Flight (MCF) at INS Shikra in Mumbai. All Sea King Mk42Cs have been transferred to INS Dega and will continue to serve with INAS 350, maintaining the operational capability and power of the squadron.

Indian Navy Sikorsky UH-3 Sea King Utility Transport Helicopter
Indian Navy Sikorsky UH-3 Sea King Utility Transport Helicopter

The UH-3H Sea King helicopters were brought to India in 2007 along with INS Jalashwa (formerly USS Trenton). The induction of these helicopters into INAS 350 took place on March 24, 2009, at INS Dega. At that time, the Indian Navy was close to signing a contract for the supply of six ex-US Navy UH-3H Sea King helicopters, purchased through the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. This acquisition also included the Dock Landing Platform (LPD) USS Trenton. In March 2007, Helispec from Brantley, Alabama, was awarded a contract for the refurbishment and upgrade of the first two UH-3H helicopters. The refurbishment was completed in six months, and the helicopters were then transported to Norfolk, Virginia, before being shipped to India on the former USS Trenton. The UH-3H helicopters were first sighted on board INS Jalashwa in February 2011 during the Indian Navy’s operation to evacuate Indian citizens from Libya.

Indian Navy Sikorsky UH-3 Sea King Utility Transport Helicopter
Indian Navy Sikorsky UH-3 Sea King Utility Transport Helicopter

The Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King, with the company designation S-61, is an American twin-engine anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter. Developed by Sikorsky Aircraft, it was a landmark design, being one of the first ASW rotorcraft to utilize turboshaft engines. The Sea King was developed to counter the growing threat of Soviet submarines in the 1950s, combining the roles of hunter and killer, which had previously been carried out by two separate helicopters. The Sea King was initially designated HSS-2, which was intended to imply a level of commonality to the earlier HSS-1; it was subsequently redesignated as the SH-3A during the early 1960s. Introduced to service in 1961, it was operated by the United States Navy as a key ASW and utility asset for several decades prior to being replaced by the non-amphibious Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk in the 1990s.

Indian Navy Sikorsky UH-3 Sea King Utility Transport Helicopter
Indian Navy Sikorsky UH-3 Sea King Utility Transport Helicopter

The Sea King also performed various other roles and missions such as search-and-rescue, transport, anti-shipping, medevac, plane guard, and airborne early warning operations. The Sea King has also proved to be popular on the export market with foreign military customers, and has also been sold to civil operators as well. As of 2024, many examples of the type remain in service in nations around the world, although some major users have begun to retire the type. The Sea King has been built under license by Agusta in Italy, Mitsubishi in Japan, Canada by United Aircraft of Canada, and by Westland in the United Kingdom as the Westland Sea King. The major civil versions are the S-61L and S-61N. The S-61R was another important variant, which was the CH-3C/E Sea King, used by the U.S. Coast Guard as the HH-3F Pelican, and the Air Force’s HH-3E Jolly Green Giant; this version had a ramp at the rear among other changes.

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