The United Kingdom has already started to transfer Westland Sea King transport helicopters to Ukraine. The first helicopter has already arrived in the country and two more are due to be provided, the BBC has reported.
The transfer was first announced by UK Secretary of State for Defense Ben Wallace during his visit to Oslo, Norway, on November 23, 2022.
An additional 10,000 artillery rounds will also be sent to Ukraine as a part of the latest defense package, Wallace added.
Escalation of aid
The helicopter is the first manned aircraft to be sent by the UK since the start of full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022.
Previous British defense packages largely included anti-aircraft and anti-tank systems, artillery systems, light armored vehicles, drones, radars and other kinds of military aid.
An additional £50 million defense package, announced by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during his visit to Kyiv in late November 2022, will include more anti-aircraft missiles and artillery systems, meant to protect Ukrainian civilian targets – primarily the country’s battered electricity grid – from relentless Russian drone and cruise missile attacks.
Ukrainian crews have been training on Sea King helicopters for the past three weeks, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense and will use the new aircraft for search-and-rescue operations.
The Westland WS-61 Sea King, a license-built copy of the Sikorsky S-61, is a medium utility helicopter used by various British services such as the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force since the late 1960s.
Roughly comparable to the Mil Mi-14, a naval variant of the Mi-8, used by the Ukrainian naval aviation, the Sea King can transport up to 3,600 kilograms (8,000 pounds) of payload, or up to 26 passengers, or 15 stretchers.
The Royal Navy retired the UK’s last Sea King in 2018. However, the type is still used by the service for training.
Multiple other countries, including India, Norway and Germany, also operate Sea King helicopters, while the original Sikorsky S-61 remains in service with the US, Brazil, Indonesia and other countries.