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SH-3 Sea King

The last US Navy Sea King SH-3 was retired in 2006 and very few countries still operate the old reliable bird. The last US operator is the US Marine Corps which operated 11 VH-3Ds for the Washington Military District at the disposal of the President. The Sikorsky S-61 amphibious transport helicopter was initially developed for the US Navy, entering service as the HSS-2 (later redesignated as the SH-3A).

On 6 March 1965, a Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King helicopter, piloted by Cmdr. James R. Williford, took off from USS Hornet (CVS 12) berthed at North Island Naval Air Station, San Diego, and landed 15 hours and 51 minutes later on the deck of Franklin D. Roosevelt at sea off Mayport, Fla. The flight surpassed the existing distance for helicopters by more than 700 miles.

Helicopter Combat Support Squadrons had a variety of aircraft, and providing training for units with many diversified missions is a formidable assignment. During the Vietnam War, HC-5 utilized the Kaman UH-2A/B/C helicopter in flight and maintenance training for pilots, aircrewmen and support personnel. The Sikorsky SH-3A's were employed to accomplish the vital task of Southeast Asia Combat SAR training.

When first commissioned, HS-11 was flying the Sikorsky HSS-1 Sea Bat [SH-34] helicopter. In 1962, the squadron transitioned to the Sikorsky twin engine SH-3A "Sea King", the first helicopter specifically designed for Antisubmarine Warfare. HS-11 subsequently transitioned to the SH-3D and SH-3H, which were improved versions of the SH-3A.

The SH-3H was equipped with improved sensors that provided greater operational capability than previous ASW helicopters. In addition to the pilot and the co-pilot, two aircrewman were positioned in the cabin area to operate the aircraft's detection equipment and interpret incoming sensor data.

The SH-3H helicopter was manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation and designed to detect, identify, track and destroy enemy submarines. As an antisubmarine platform the H-3 is equipped with a dipping sonar and armed with Mark 46 torpedoes. The SH-3D Sea King was a standard antisubmarine helicopter of the US Navy. The Sea King is also capable of providing logistics support to the fleet and performing search and rescue operations. One hundred and five SH-3As were converted to utility duties by removing antisubmarine warfare equipment and adding a minigun for protection in combat search and rescue missions. The first version of this workhorse anti-submarine warfare helicopter was flown in 1960. The H-3's versatility was emphasized during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm when 36 SH-3Hs flying from carriers logged more than 5,000 hours conducting combat SAR, special operations, maritime interdiction operations, logistics support, and mine-hunting.

The SH-3H model is used by the Navy Reserves to detect, classify, track and destroy enemy submarines. It also provides logistical support and a search and rescue capability. The UH-3H model is utility configured for logistical support and search and rescue missions. The VH-3A model supports the Executive Transport Mission. Most SH-3's were replaced by the SH-60F and the SH-60B in the 1970's and 1980's. The Sea King has been replaced by the SH-60F Sea Hawk helicopters as the anti-submarine warfare helicopter. The transition was completed in the mid 1990s. The SH-3H has been replaced in the fleet by HH-60H aircraft. There are several still in service used to provide logistics support, VIP/executive transport and search and rescue capability. The UH-3Hs are programmed to be replaced by the CH-60 version of the Sikorsky Blackhawk/Seahawk.

Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 10 (HS-10), a shore-based unit of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet, closed its chapter on the SH-3H helicopter with more than 70,000 mishap-free flight hours when the last students completed in June 1989. The squadron immediately began operations with the Navy's newest aircraft, the Sikorsky SH-60F Seahawk. As of 23 September 1994, with the disestablishment of HS-12 at Naval Air Field Atsugi, Japan, the "Foxtrot," as the SH-60F has come to be known, had completely repalced the SH-3H in the Pacific Fleet. The Emerald Knights of HS-75 exist to provide support in the form of search and rescue and logistical support to Commander, Naval Atlantic Fleet during carrier landing qualification periods. In October 1999 HS-75 slowly began phasing out the aging Sikorsky SH-3H helicopter and received their first SH-60 helicopter in December 1999. Finally on 29 February 2000 the squadron's last SH-3H left the hangar and HS-75 was officially an H-60 squadron. This transition dramatically improved the squadron's ability to support the fleet.

Flying the Sikorsky SH-3H helicopter, nicknamed the "Sea King," Search and Rescue team provides trained and ready crews at a moment's notice, capable of day and night rescue. SAR crews maintain an around-the-clock alert posture, and can be airborne within 15-minutes during normal work hours and whenever practice carrier landings are conducted, and within 30-minutes at other times. The five-person crew consists of a pilot, co-pilot, crew chief, rescue crewman, and rescue Corpsman. Flying at altitudes up to 10,000 ft makes them the ideal asset for missions where other options won't work. In addition to the 100-ft hoist capability, the SAR team can perform a 250-ft rappel, followed by a short-haul (lifting both rescuer and victim at the end of the rope and transporting to an appropriate, more accessible location for recovery into the helicopter via landing or hoist) for transport to medical facilities. While en route, the Rescue Corpsmen (qualified Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs)), are trained to give life-saving care.

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Page last modified: 30-03-2012 18:45:20 ZULU