Pakistan Navy has reportedly received seven surplus Westland Sea King multi-role helicopters in a ceremony in London on May 24. The helicopters will undergo maintenance services by Vector Aerospace before they are shipped to Pakistan.
The Sea King helicopter is a multi-role helicopter. It has been used for search and rescue (SAR) operations, warfare and as a transportation platform for the last several decades.
It is a British license-built version of the American Sikorsky S-61 helicopter of the same name, which is made by Westland Helicopters. The Sea King has served the British Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, German Navy and Indian Navy. However, last year, the United Kingdom had retired its fleet of Sea King helicopters.
With a top speed of 208 kilometres per hour, the medium-lift transport and utility chopper sports a rotorspan of 19 metres. The Sea King has also been equipped with sophisticated night vision facility. With this facility, the chopper becomes much more than just a transport platform.
Pakistan Navy has already been using Sea King helicopters for multi-dimensional purposes. It serves the force both on warfare and civil fronts. Reportedly, six Sea King helicopters are already serving Pakistan Navy.
How Pakistan uses the Sea King
The naval force uses these shore-based assets for surveillance, troop transport, anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare. The helicopter can be equipped with torpedo and depth charges as well as other anti-submarine missiles.
In times of peace, the 56-feet-long machine is used for training, rescue and relief operations, particularly in post flood and earthquake scenarios.
The folding-rotors choppers had actively participated in rescue and relief operations after the 2005 earthquake and floods in 2010, besides several other occasions.
Following infrastructure developments under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Pakistan Navy is also using the Sea King helicopters for surveillance of the coastal line along Sindh and Balochistan.
Due to its extraordinary ability of sustained hovering even at extremely low altitudes, the Navy also uses the choppers for anti-piracy operations. It also plays a vital role in offshore anti-human trafficking operations. Newer models of the Sea King are also able to land on water surfaces and then take off.
Besides this, the chopper is equipped with infra-red lights which are only visible with the help of night vision goggles, providing the choppers with an edge when it comes to secrecy and surprise tactical operations.
The MK4 model of the Sea King is known among naval circles as the Junglie. It features improved Carson rotor blades for 'hot and high' operations, particularly in challenging environmental situations.
The upgraded HC4 version of the Sea King can carry up to 2,720 kg of internal load. Its ability to handle underslung loads is measured up to 2.5 tonnes. The diameter of its rotor is 18.9 metres whereas the total length, height and width are 22, 4.7 and 3.8 metres respectively.
Finally, Sea King helicopters are a key tool in the training of marines and navy commandos.