STATUS: Active, In-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Sikorsky Aircraft - USA / Westland - UK
OPERATORS: Argentina; Australia; Belgium; Brazil; Canada; Denmark; Egypt; Germany; India; Iran; Iraq; Ireland; Italy; Japan; Malaysia, Norway; Pakistan; Peru; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Spain; Thailand; Venezuela; United Kingdom; United States
LENGTH: 54.79 feet (16.7 meters)
WIDTH: 62.34 feet (19 meters)
HEIGHT: 16.90 feet (5.15 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 11,872 pounds (5,385 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 22,046 pounds (10,000 kilograms)
ENGINE: 2 x General Electric T58-GE-10 turboshaft engines developing 1,400 horsepower each and driving a five-blade main rotor and five-blade tail rotor.
SPEED (MAX): 166 miles-per-hour (267 kilometers-per-hour; 144 knots)
RANGE: 621 miles (1,000 kilometers; 540 nautical miles)
CEILING: 14,698 feet (4,480 meters; 2.78 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 2,000 feet-per-minute (610 meters-per-minute)
Detailing the development and operational history of the Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King Ship-based Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Helicopter.
Entry last updated on 11/29/2018.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
At its peak, the Sikorsky SH-3 series of navy helicopter was a widely-used and successful platform undertaking a variety of over-water roles including Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Search And Rescue (SAR) operations. Development stemmed from a 1957 United States Navy (USN) requirement calling for a flyable prototype by 1959. A first-flight was had on March 11th, 1959 and service entry followed in 1961. Production spanned 1959 to the 1970s.
By this time in the Cold War, the Soviet Navy had put a heavy investment on its submarine force and, in response, the USN was forced to modernize its surface fleet to deal with the underwater threat. This also included strengthening its air arm for the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) role and components like the Sea King were developed for just that.
The resulting Sikorsky design became a medium-class twin-engined amphibious system with the appropriate support for ASW mission equipment and shipborne operational capabilities.
The prototype was designated XHSS-2 and was a one-off example. YHSS-2 represented the preproduction form and seven were built. HSS-2 was the original in-service designation of the Sea King until the 1962 U.S. military reorganization changed this to SH-3. Hence the original HSS-2 now became the SH-3A in service. Two-hundred forty-five of this mark were produced.
The combat SAR platform was known as the HH-3A and twelve were formed from the existing SH-3A stock. CH-3A was a general military transport mark serving the USAF. Three were converted from SH-3A models and later became designated as CH-3B.
Various other designs were delivered or trialed. NH-3A (S-61F) was a compound helicopter development for high-speed tests. RH-3A was a dedicated minesweeper. VH-3A was a VIP transport of the Army and USMC. SH-3D became a ASW form and seventy-three were produced. VH-3D was its VIP form. SH-3G dealt with cargo loads and 105 were converted from the SH-3A and SH-3D stock. SH-3H was an upgraded ASW model while another offshoot became an Airborne Early Warning (AEW) form.
Canadian versions were known under the CH-124 designation and undertook their own roles under similar designations (A, B, C, etc...). The British Westland Sea King was the SH-3 built under license in the United Kingdom. Augusta of Italy also locally-produced the series under license as did Mitsubishi of Japan. Global operators ranged from Argentina and Brazil to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela - such was the popularity and effectiveness of the design.
Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King (Cont'd)
Ship-based Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Helicopter
As built, the helicopter relied on a crew of four including two pilots and a pair of ASW systems operators. There was further space for three additional personnel. Empty weight was 11,865lb against an MTOW of 22,050lb. Power was from 2 x General Electric T58-GE-10 series turboshaft engines developing 1,400 horsepower each and driving a five-bladed main rotor and five-bladed tail rotor (set to portside). The tricycle undercarriage was wheeled and retractable at the two main legs.
Performance-wide, the SH-3 held a maximum speed of 166 miles per hour, a range out to 620 miles and a service ceiling of 14,700 feet. Rate-of-climb was up to 2,220 feet per minute.
Armament was typically one or two Mark 44 or Mark 46 anti-submarine homing torpedoes but the platform was also able to deliver the B-57 nuclear depth charge, conventional naval depth charges and be equipped with door-mounted machine guns for local defense.
In service, SH-3 helicopters were called upon to accomplish one of the more important roles in fleet defense - protection from enemy submarines. As such, the aircraft was typically the first platform aloft during anti-submarine operations, an indication of the importance of the type to any global navy service. Aided by the AQS-81B dipping sonar, MAD (Magnetic Anomaly Detector), sonobuoys, search-tracking radar and a fleet-wide link-up, the Sea King could provide the entire fleet with results of its readings as well as attack threats directly. Chaff pods were equipped for defense against enemy Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs).
The Sea King series developed into a versatile performer that also allowed for MEDEVAC and basic transport sorties. In the former, over twenty wounded could be carried aloft or these personnel replaced by nine medical litters. Additionally, some twenty-eight combat-ready troops could be ferried about when equipped for the passenger transport role. An interesting facet of the Sea King's design was its ability to land directly on the surface of the water. Though it was inherently limited in the total time it could stay afloat, the helicopter was designed to support this feature in the event a water landing was required (rescuing a downed airman for example). However, as useful as this feature may have seemed, it remained seldom used throughout the career of the SH-3.
The Sea King went on to appear in other notable guises during its prime service years, most notably in the form of "Marine One" - the VIP transport helicopter for the President of the United States (operated by the United States Marine Corps service). SH-3's were also noted in their use during the recovery of the Apollo 14 space crew upon their landing in the ocean. The HH-3E "Jolly Green Giant" was developed from the S-61R and serve the USAF very well in the SARs role during the Vietnam Conflict. The HH-3F was known as the "Pelican" to the USCG and used in SAR.
In USN service, the SH-3 was superseded by the Sikorsky SH-60 "Sea Hawk", a variant of the venerable U.S. Army UH-60 "Blackhawk" helicopter. Formal USN retirement for the SH-3 was 2006.
Some global operators of the Sea King remain as of this writing (2017) though the helicopters best days are clearly behind it.
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Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.
Relative Maximum Speed Rating
This entry's maximum listed speed (166mph).
Graph average of 150 miles-per-hour.
Graph showcases the Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units