As part of its “unwavering support,” the British government will provide Ukraine with three retired Westland WS-61 Sea King helicopters. UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced the deal last week ahead of a regional European meeting to discuss continued military aid to Ukraine. The first helicopter has been delivered and the UK Royal Navy is providing Ukrainian crews with training.
Westland manufactured 341 WS-61s between 1969 and 1995 under license from Sikorsky. The substitution of Rolls-Royce Gnome engines is the major differentiator between the WS-61 and the U.S.-made SH-3/S-61, which is powered by a pair of GE T58 engines. Sikorsky produced more than 1,300 of the models since 1959.
The U.S. Navy retired the helicopter type in 2006 and UK forces retired it in 2018. It is still widely used by civilian contractors and the VH-3D variant continues to fly as Marine One, transporting the U.S. President. The 54-foot-long helicopter has a normal cruise speed of 120 knots, mtow of 21,500 pounds, and maximum range of 542 nm.
A slightly stretched version, the S-61, was concurrently manufactured for the civil market. An updated version of that aircraft, the S-61T, was produced in a limited quantity under contract for the U.S. State Department for personnel transport beginning in 2014.