The Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King (company designation S-61) is an American twin-engined anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter designed and built by Sikorsky Aircraft.
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The Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King (company designation S-61) is an American twin-engined anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter designed and built by Sikorsky Aircraft. A landmark design, it was one of the first ASW rotorcraft to use turboshaft engines.
The Sea King has its origins in efforts by the United States Navy to counter the growing threat of Soviet submarines during the 1950s. Accordingly, the helicopter was specifically developed to deliver a capable ASW platform; in particular, it combined the roles of hunter and killer, which had previously been carried out by two separate helicopters. The Sea King was initially designated HSS-2, which was intended to imply a level of commonality to the earlier HSS-1; it was subsequently redesignated as the SH-3A during the early 1960s.
Introduced to service in 1961, it was operated by the United States Navy as a key ASW and utility asset for several decades prior to being replaced by the non-amphibious Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk in the 1990s. In late 1961 and early 1962, a modified U.S. Navy HSS-2 Sea King was used to break the FAI 3km, 100km, 500km, and 1000km helicopter speed records. The Sea King also performed various other roles and missions such as search-and-rescue, transport, anti-shipping, medevac, plane guard, and airborne early warning operations.
The Sea King has also proved to be popular on the export market with foreign military customers, and has also been sold to civil operators as well. As of 2015, many examples of the type remain in service in nations around the world. The Sea King has been built under license by Agusta in Italy, Mitsubishi in Japan, and by Westland in the United Kingdom as the Westland Sea King. The major civil versions are the S-61L and S-61N.