Sea King HAR3/3A

Who flies the Sea King HAR3/3A

The SAR squadrons provide 24-hour cover around the UK and the Falkland Islands throughout each year.

  1. 203 (Reserve) Squadron
    RAF Valley
  2. 22 Squadron
    RAF St Mawgan
  3. 202 Squadron
    RAF Lossiemouth

The Westland Sea King HAR3 entered RAF service in 1978 and the 3A in 1996; both marks of aircraft are used in the Search and Rescue (SAR) role.


  • Engines: Two Rolls-Royce Gnome turboshafts
  • Thrust: 1,389shp each
  • Max speed: 125kts
  • Length: 16m
  • Max altitude: 10,000ft
  • Span: 18.9m
  • Aircrew: 4


The aircraft are operated from six locations around the UK, with each location supporting two aircraft. There is also a detachment of two HAR3s providing SAR cover in the Falkland Islands. The SAR squadrons provide 24-hour cover around the UK and the Falkland Islands throughout each year. Each squadron maintains a 15-minutes readiness state during daylight hours and a 45-minutes readiness state during the hours of darkness.

For the search aspect of its role, the Sea King is able to operate to precise navigational standards and is fitted with a multi-band homing system, satellite navigation systems, a search radar, a comprehensive avionics suite and a large selection of radios. For its rescue role, the aircraft is equipped with a hydraulically-operated main rescue hoist, an electrically-operated emergency rescue hoist and electrical connections suitable for powering medical equipment such as incubators. The SAR fleet of Sea Kings are fitted with a video/infrared detection pod, which is similar to the equipment used by police helicopters, to help search for casualties.

All SAR crews are trained to operate using night-vision goggles over unfamiliar terrain. The standard SAR crew is made up of four members: two pilots, one of whom is the aircraft captain, a radar operator who acts as the winch operator at the rescue scene and a winch man, normally trained to paramedic standard, who will supply immediate first-aid and recovery services at the rescue site.

Sea king recognition

Long fuselage with boat-hull bottom and sponsons either side of the cabin into which the main undercarriage wheels retract (1). Engines mounted above the cabin with the five-blade main rotor on top (2). Short tail section stepped up behind the single rear wheel. Six-blade tail rotor on port side of the short stabiliser. A radar 'dustbin' is located on the top of the fuselage behind the engines (3). Aircraft are also painted in a bright yellow colour scheme to aid visibility.

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