UK donates three former WS-61 ‘Sea King’ helicopters to Ukraine

If NATO countries are reluctant to supply tanks and combat aircraft of Western design to the Ukrainian forces to the extent that it would take them too long to acquire them, it is now different for maneuver helicopters. In any case, Britain has just opened a breach.

So far, Ukraine has received only Soviet-made helicopters [et désormais russe], such as the Mil Mi-17s recovered by the US in Afghanistan. But this November 23, from Oslo, where the aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales is making a stopover, the British Defense Secretary, Ben Wallace, announced that three Westland WS-61 Sea King aircraft will be transferred to the Ukrainian forces. A first copy has already been delivered, according to the BBC.

The Westland “Sea Kings” are old aircraft derived from the American Sikorsky S61. They entered service with the British forces in 1970, for, depending on the version, a wide range of missions, from anti-submarine warfare to rescue, electronic warfare and troop transport.

Royal Air Force [RAF] and Fleet Air Arm [aviation de la Royal Navy, ndlr] retired them from service in 2015 and 2018 respectively after extensive use. They have since been replaced by the AW-101 Merlin.

According to the British minister, the first Ukrainian pilots and technicians began their training on this type of helicopter in September in Great Britain. The Sea Kings they will operate will be used to conduct search and rescue missions. Probably a batch of spare parts will be supplied to ensure their maintenance in working condition [MCO]which look complicated due to their age.

In addition, announced Mr. Wallace also the supply to the Ukrainian forces of 10,000 additional artillery shells. “Our support for Ukraine is unwavering. These munitions will help Ukraine secure the land it has recaptured from Russia in recent weeks,” he said.

This assistance will complement what Rishi Sunak, the British Prime Minister, promised during a visit to Kiev on 19 November. Indeed, he had indicated that Britain would send 120 anti-aircraft guns and anti-drone assets [radars, brouilleurs] would be delivered to Ukraine. All for the sum of 50 million pounds sterling.

London’s total military aid to Ukrainian forces has been more than £2.3bn since the Russian-led war began on 24 February.

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