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SH-3 Sea King

Anti-submarine warfare helicopter

SH-3 Sea King

For several decades the Sea King was the key US Navy ASW and utility asset

Entered service 1961
Crew 4 men
Passengers 3 men
Dimensions and weight
Length 16.7 m
Main rotor diameter 19 m
Height 5.13 m
Weight (empty) 5.38 t
Weight (maximum take off) 10 t
Engines and performance
Engines 2 x General Electric T58-GE-10 turboshafts
Engine power 2 x 1 400 shp
Maximum speed 267 km/h
Service ceiling 4.48 km
Range 1 000 km
Ferry range ?
Torpedoes 2 x Mk 46/44 (SH-3H)


   The S-61 was developed by Sikorsky in the late 1950s primarily for the carrier-based anti-submarine warfare (ASW) role. It made its first flight in 1959. It was the world's first amphibious helicopter. The Sikorsky S-61 has been adopted in 1961 by the US armed forces as the H-3. Various versions of this helicopter were widely used by the US Navy. Since its introduction improved ASW, search and rescue (SAR) and transport models appeared. Sikorsky licensed production of this helicopter to  Agusta (Italy), Mitsubishi (Japan) and Westland (UK). Also there were civil versions of this chopper. In the 1990s the US Navy replaced their Sea Kings by more modern, but non-amphibious SH-60 Seahawks. The US Navy finally retired the H-3 fleet in 2006.However Sea King helicopters remain in widespread service around the world in a variety of roles. One version remains in service with US Marine Corps. Largest operators are Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Iran, Italy, Peru and Spain. They serve primarily in the SAR role in Denmark and Japan, and in the transport/utility role in Australia and Venezuela.

   A baseline SH-3A Sea King ASW helicopter has a crew of 4, including 2 pilots and 2 operators. It can also carry 3 additional passengers.

   The helicopter has a watertight boat-like hull. It has pontoons with floating bags, that give the Sea King a capability to land on water.

   The SH-3 has two General Electric T58-GE-10 turbosfhaft engines, developing 1 400 shp each. It was one of the first ASW helicopters fitted with turboshaft engines.

   The Sea King has a dipping sonar and sonobuoys for submarine detection. This ASW helicopter has a capability to carry a nuclear depth charge. Some of this later versions, such as SH-3H carried two Mk 46/44 anti-submarine torpedoes.

   This naval helicopter has a moveable tail section. For storage below carrier decks the tail and the main rotor blades are folded.




   SH-3A a baseline anti-submarine warfare helicopter, used by the US Navy. Originally it was designated the HSS-2. A total of 245 of these choppers were produced;

   HH-3A combat search and rescue helicopter used by the US Navy. A total of 12 helicopters were converted from SH-3A;

   CH-3A utility transport version for the US Air Force. Only 3 helicopters were converted from SH-3As into this standard. Later these USAF helicopters were upgraded to CH-3B standard;

   RH-3A minesweeper helicopter of the US Navy. A total of 9 were converted from SH-3As;

   VH-3A presidential and VIP transport, used by the US Marine Corps to carry the President of the United States. Company designation S-61V. A total of 8 of these helicopters were newly built, plus additional 2 were rebuilt from damaged SH-3As. By the late 1970s all VH-3A helicopters were returned to the US Navy. In 1979 it was replaced by the VH-3D, that is still in service;

   CH-3B utility transport version of the US Air Force. Only 3 of these helicopters were in service. These were upgraded from the previous CH-3As, that in turn were converted form baseline SH-3As;

   CH-3C search and rescue variant of the US Air Force. It made its first flight in 1963. These helicopters were used to recover downed pilots.

   SH-3D is an improved anti-submarine warfare version. It has S-61B Sikorsky company designation. It has been adopted by the US Navy as SH-3D. A total of 73 helicopters were built from new. Another 2 were converted from SH-3As.

   VH-3D is as a presidential and VIP transport. It is used by the US Marine Corps to carry the President of the United States. It has been adopted in 1979 and replaced in this role the previous VH-3A. By 2009 there were 11 VH-3D helicopters in service. Once the President is aboard, the helicopter has a call sign Marine One. When carries the Vice President, this helicopter has a call sign Marine Two;

   CH-3E search and rescue version of the US Air Force. It is a successor to the CH-3C. It appeared in 1965 and had more powerful engines. A total of 50 helicopters were built;

   HH-3E, also referred as Jolly Green Giant. It was an improved version of the CH-3E for the US Air Force. This helicopter had a much revised fuselage with conventional watertight hull instead of boat hull. Also it had a rear loading ramp. Furthermore it had armor protection, self-sealing fuel tanks and in-flight refueling probe. It was used for utility and search and rescue. A total of 8 helicopters were built from new and all 50 previous CH-3E were converted to this standard. The HH-3E paved a way for the larger CH-53 Sea Stallion;

   HH-3F Sea King or Pelican. It is a version of the HH-3E used by US Coast Guard for all-weather search and rescue. It had a search radar with nose-mounted antenna;

   SH-3G utility transport of the US Navy. A total of 105 were converted from SH-3As and SH-3Ds;

   SH-3H multi-role helicopter. It is a further upgrade of the SH-3G, but had improved airframe, anti-submarine warfare equipment and some other improvements. For hunting submarines it used surveillance radar and towed magnetic anomaly detector. New engines gave this relatively large helicopter impressive performance. It could carry substantial loads underslung. It was a culmination of the H-3 series development. Some sources report that a total of 163 helicopters were upgraded to this standard. The SH-3H was phased out of front-line US Navy service in 1995;

   SH-3H AEW airborne early warning version of the Spanish Navy;

   UH-3H utility transport helicopter of the US Navy. It was converted from SH-3H by removing anti-submarine warfare systems;

   CH-124 Sea King. It is a Canadian version, that was locally produced in Canada. Originally it was built as an ASW helicopter. A total of 41 of these helicopters were built. However some upgraded choppers received an added utility transport capability. Some of the Canadian Sea Kings are still in service;

   Westland Sea King is a specially modified variant for the Royal Navy. These helicopters were license-produced by Westland in the United Kingdom. It had British avionics and anti-submarine equipment. The Westland Sea King first flew in 1969 and was adopted by the Royal Navy in 1970. It was also used by Royal Air Force for search and rescue operations. Westland built around 340 Sea Kings for the ASW, AEW and assault transport roles. This helicopter has been exported to a number of countries;

   Augusta AS-61, version of the Sikorsky S-61, produced under license in Italy. The AS-61Rs can carry machine-guns for a combat SAR role;

   Mitsubishi S-61, version of the Sikorsky S-61, produced under license in Japan for Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.


Video of the SH-3 Sea King anti-submarine warfare helicopter

SH-3 Sea King

SH-3 Sea King

SH-3 Sea King

SH-3 Sea King

SH-3 Sea King

SH-3 Sea King

SH-3 Sea King

SH-3 Sea King

SH-3 Sea King

SH-3 Sea King

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