Naval Air: Senior Sea Kings Shut Down

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November 18,2008: Italy has grounded its 35 elderly HH-3F Sea King helicopters. One of them recently crashed when one of its rotor blades broke off. The helicopters will stay grounded until all the blades on the others can be examined for flaws. The Italian Air Force operates the HH-3Fs for coastal search and rescue.

These helicopters are also known in the U.S. as S-61s. The nine ton Sea King is a late 1950s design, and contemporary of the U.S. Army's UH-1 "Huey." In the U.S., the Sea Kings were replaced by a navy version of the Hueys successor, the UH-60 Blackhawk. Over a dozen other navies bought the Sea King, and many still use it. But these aircraft are getting old.

The Sea King has a range of about a thousand kilometers, and a top speed of 210 kilometers an hour. It was mainly used for anti-submarine warfare and search and rescue. Some 1,500 were built (about ten percent were the civilian S-61 version), and over a hundred are still in use. Such long service lives are increasingly common. Some of the first Sea Kings survived for over three decades.

 


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