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Vector Aerospace restores Sea King helicopters for Pakistan

Vector Aerospace will soon deliver three refurbished Sea King – i.e. two HC.4 and one HAR3A – helicopters to the Pakistan Navy (PN), AIN Online reports.

“Many manhours have gone into returning each aircraft to the air …  you have to remember that these helicopters had not flown for around two years, so they had suffered from some corrosion, perished seals, shock-absorber issues and various other age-related defects,” said Steve Tamblyn, project manager of the PN Sea King program at Vector Aerospace.

Pakistan bought seven ex-Royal Navy and ex-Royal Air Force Sea King helicopters in May of this year. Three of them have been restored and two were stripped for spare parts, with the remaining two will be sent to Pakistan as-is, likely to serve for spare parts (currently unclear).

The Sea King helicopters will join the PN’s No. 111 Squadron, which operates six Sea King Mk45 and Mk45B in troop transport, search-and-rescue (SAR), anti-ship warfare (AShW) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW).

Although a modest acquisition, it is reflective of Pakistan and the U.K.’s push to strengthen defence ties.

In September, the two countries relaunched the Defence Technical Cooperation agreement, a bilateral memorandum-of-understanding (MoU). The MoU was first signed in 2005, it had called for “new avenues in the area of defence cooperation between Pakistan and the UK and facilitate procurement of defence equipment and transfer-of-technology.”

Notes & Comments:

Currently, the PN’s Sea Kings are shore-based assets. The previous Chief of Naval Staff had announced that new Chinese frigates were on order, it is not known if these will have hangars and/or flight decks that are large enough for deploying the Sea King. However, the forthcoming STM Pakistan Navy Fleet Tanker, which is currently undergoing sea trials, will be able to deploy the Sea King.

The forthcoming HC4s can each deploy up to 27 fully-equipped troops or 2,700 kg in internal payload. The HC.4 can also carry 2,200 kg externally using a sling. These helicopters will provide a capability increase to the PN Marines and Special Service Group (SSG) Navy. The HAR.3A is a specialist SAR variant.

According to IHS Jane’s, Pakistan’s serving Sea King helicopters were upgraded with Leonardo’s SeaSpray 5300 active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radars. This would indicate that the Pakistan Navy’s Sea King helicopters will continue serving for the foreseeable future, a successor has not yet been identified.

The Pakistan Navy also operates six Harbin Z-9 ASW/AShW helicopters from onboard its Zulfiqar-class F-22P frigates and seven SA316/319 Alouette III lightweight utility helicopters for SAR and transport (Flight Global World Air Forces 2017).

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  • by U
    Posted November 10, 2017 5:32 am 0Likes

    I once saw a Sea King literally above my car, approaching a 5 story building to land on, realized they are absolutely Gigantic! Which ton class of helicopters are they from?

    I think I’ve read that Pak also received some from Qatar.

  • by sami shahid
    Posted November 10, 2017 5:58 am 0Likes

    Awesome….Pakistan navy really requires transport helicopters for special operations and HC-4 version is suitable for this purpose. Its good to know that navy has purchased helicopters that can carry 24 commandos. Anyway just want to say that HC-4 version is specially designed for special forces.

  • by Bilal Khan
    Posted November 10, 2017 2:51 pm 0Likes

    MTOW is nearly 10 tons, it’d take the AW101 to replicate the Sea King’s capability set, but at the much higher cost of $70+ m per helicopter. Turkey is also developing its own 10-ton helicopter, I think Pakistan should consider that route so that in 15 years it can build its own Sea King, Puma and even older Mi-8/17 replacement.

  • by Omar Dar
    Posted November 10, 2017 3:17 pm 0Likes

    I read about the Qatari Sea King deal too, but that news seems to have disappeared. But these Sea King’s are nice helicopters and I was hoping Pakistan would gather more of these from the UK.

  • by Joseph
    Posted November 10, 2017 3:35 pm 0Likes

    It is 10 ton class, though it looks bulkier and heavier than black hawk, which is in the same class. I think it is due to the fact it was originally designed as a amphibious helicopter, which is capable of directly landing on water.

    According to wikipedia HC4 has amphibious capability removed.

  • by Joseph
    Posted November 10, 2017 5:03 pm 0Likes

    If Pakistan were to replace Sea King, Puma and Mi-17 with a 10 ton utility helicopter in future then it could potentially need about 100 to 150. I think it is well worth it to develop an indigenous model.

  • by Bilal Khan
    Posted November 10, 2017 5:35 pm 0Likes

    Indeed. That is considerable domestic scale, at least to start out with should the idea of locally producing helicopters enter the discussion. Best course of action would be to partner with someone already in the process of designing and developing such a platform, e.g. Turkish Aerospace Industries or Avicopter, so that Pakistan isn’t the only one to bear the development overhead.

  • by Joseph
    Posted November 10, 2017 6:02 pm 0Likes

    Although I wouldn’t say T129 was an indigenous development, but TAI T-625 I think is largely developed by Turkey.

    Turkey does seem to have adequate experience so I also think it could be a suitable partner. That is if Turkey allows Pakistan to take part in development or at least provides a deep technology transfer, instead of just co-funding it.

  • by Steve
    Posted November 11, 2017 3:37 pm 0Likes
  • by U
    Posted November 11, 2017 4:51 pm 0Likes

    So it is one of the heavy weights, Pak probably would get some more if it can as I don’t think Pak is in a position of getting new replacements as per the cost you’ve given, by upgrading these Pak can maintain a good capability.

    Your idea of investing in the Turkish program makes good sense, but we do not know if Turkey is willing to take Pak as a partner or only a customer, secondly it also depends if Turkey can successfully make its own engine in 15 years.

    I sometimes think what if Pak just replaces all its Puma with new Mi17 and get a MRO facility from Rusia?

  • by U
    Posted November 11, 2017 5:00 pm 0Likes

    Good to know, never seen a video of it landing on water, but honestly I was in awe to see it this close, one does not realize the real size of such helis in pictures and videos. Its amazing to see them flying/hovering up close, graceful.

  • by Bilal Khan
    Posted November 11, 2017 8:18 pm 0Likes

    The SSM said they’re open to partners for the 10-ton helicopter. Sadly, Pakistan can’t bring much to the table besides some scale (via wanting to replace the Puma and Sea Kings) and funding (conditional on long-term economic progress). The engine certainly helps from securing the supply channel, but there are accessible alternatives available, e.g. Safran Group in France (with whom even China is working with …) As for the Mi-17 MRO, Pakistan was in talks with Rostec in 2015, but we haven’t heard much on that front since.

  • by Joseph
    Posted November 11, 2017 8:51 pm 0Likes

    A Pakistan utility helicopter I think would need to work on high attitude and quite extreme weather conditions.

    China has been using about 24 American black hawk helicopters they bought in 80s (I think only about 20 remaining now) for transport duties around Tibet. China bought Mi-17 for that purpose too, but from what I hear it’s performance especially in high altitude and severe weather conditions was considered unsatisfactory comparing to black hawk. The fact those black hawks China bought already past their due dates but still in service is saying something.

    That is why China is developing it’s own Z-20 10 ton utility helicopter, which is supposed to surpass or at least comparable to black hawk in all terrain and weather conditions.

    So I doubt Pakistan was completely happy with Mi-17.

  • by ahmria
    Posted November 12, 2017 2:56 am 0Likes

    I know Pakistan is constrained financially and these sort of helicopters are very versatile but I must ask the question how much extra life will we be getting from these old airframes considering they have probably had quite a long service life with the RN before being retired.

  • by U
    Posted November 12, 2017 4:15 pm 0Likes

    I think Pakistan is satisfied with it’s MI-17s. Never heard something about it. They are seen in regular operations all over Pakistan including the Northern Regions, for troop insertion, cargo etc. A similar heli i.e. Mi-35 has also been aquired for similar operations. Which means they are good enough, they might not be good for Siachin or places like it, but I don’t think there are many such places of action. So if required, a limited number of special high altitude capable helis can be aquired. Therefore I believe more Mi-17s can be added for use in majority of the operations.
    If Pakistan doesn’t invests in the Turkish program, it should replace the old Pumas with new Mi-17s, reducing the types of medium lift helicopters to one and get a MRO facility for both Mi-17s and Mi-35s.

  • by U
    Posted November 12, 2017 4:27 pm 0Likes

    I am skeptical of Pakistan getting uninterrupted access to French engines too. I am not much into engines, but you once mentioned of Pakistan trying to setup a PT6 MRO, so can PT6 be used to power a 10 ton helicopter?

    Lets hope Pakistan soon takes a great future proof decision.

  • by Joseph
    Posted November 12, 2017 8:22 pm 0Likes

    PT6 is usually used to power 7 ton class helicopters, so it could be a bit weak for 10 ton class.

    I think French engine could be more sanction proof than Canadian engines. Chinese Z-10 wanted to use Canadian PT6C-67C turboshaft engine but that was cancelled due to American intervention.

    Now China and French Safran group jointly developed WZ-16 turboshaft for Chinese 7 ton class AC352 (Joint development with Airbus, the Airbus version is H175). AC352 would use WZ-16 but Airbus H175 would use Canadian PT6C-67E. That is a good indication China still has reservations about Canadian engines. I think Pakistan is facing similar risks.

  • by U
    Posted November 13, 2017 5:08 pm 0Likes

    Thanks for all the info!
    Pakistan already uses PT6s for various platforms, one probably is the AW139, any way it would be way better if the Turks can come up with their own engine in a decade or so.

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