“Many man hours 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).