Two Westland Sea King ASaC7 airborne surveillance and control helicopters from 849 Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Culdrose, Cornwall, made a three-hour farewell tour of the West Country on 19 September to mark the retirement of the Sea King from UK military service after nearly half a century. A week later, a trio of ASaC7s flew from Culdrose to HMS Sultan at Gosport, where they now await disposal.
Replacement for the Sea Kings will arrive in 2020 in the shape of AgustaWestland Merlin HM2 helicopters being modified under Project Crowsnest. They will be fitted with the Searchwater radar for sea, land and air surveillance on the two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
The Westland Sea King first entered service in HAS1 anti-submarine helicopter form with 700 Naval Air Squadron in August 1969. More than 140 of the twin-Rolls-Royce Gnome turboshaft-powered machines were built for the RN, and carried out anti-submarine, search and rescue, troop transport and airborne early warning and intelligence missions.
The November issue of Aeroplane, out now, includes a fascinating piece by maritime aviation expert Richard Scott on how the Argentine attack on HMS Sheffield during the Falklands War led to the Sea King being hastily adopted — and adapted — for the airborne early warning role. To buy your copy, visit https://aeroplanemonthly.keypublishing.com/.