A trio of UK-donated Westland Sea King helicopters destined for Ukraine have been sourced from Portland-based HeliOperations, with the potential for additional assets to be transferred in future.
HeliOperations had previously acquired 19 ex-Royal Navy (RN) and Royal Air Force Sea Kings – a mixture of Mk3 and Mk5 search and rescue (SAR), and Mk7 airborne surveillance variants – to support a crew training contract for the German navy.
Three examples were used on that contract – all former RN HAR5 aircraft – while the remainder were in storage at HeliOperations’ facility in Somerton, close to RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset, southwest England.
However, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) seems to have repurchased three airframes from HeliOperations and paid for their refurbishment. It is unclear if they were taken from the active fleet or the stored inventory, although the latter appears more likely.
Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace announced the transfer of the SAR-roled Sea Kings on 23 November as part of a wider military assistance package for Ukraine. A six-week training course for 10 Ukrainian crews was also provided, the MoD says.
A single Sea King has so far been delivered, having flown from the UK to Ukraine in early November.
Given that HeliOperations retains a substantial inventory of Sea King airframes, there is the clear potential to transfer further assets to Kyiv in the future.
The MoD declines to comment on the source of the Sea Kings or any follow-on donations, citing reasons of operational security. HeliOperations directed all questions to the MoD.