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​What's the Condition of Sea King Helicopters Germany is Giving to Ukraine and Will They Carry Weapons

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A German Sea King Mk41 during a search and rescue mission / Illustrative photo credit: Bundeswehr
A German Sea King Mk41 during a search and rescue mission / Illustrative photo credit: Bundeswehr

This type of helicopter wasn't chosen randomly, some factors played a role, like Britain's involvement and arsenal update plans

During last week's Ukraine Defence Contact Group meeting at Ramstein air base, Germany pledged to provide the Ukrainian army with six Sea King military helicopters. The delivery should take place in the first half of 2024. The decision announced after the event concluded on January 23rd was met with ambivalence: being the first approved transfer of rotorcraft from Berlin, it is significant progress for Kyiv yet the equipment itself is rather old — the first choppers of this type were made in the 1970s.

Moreover, there were worrisome reports about the physical condition of these helicopters, as well as the functions they can perform. Naval News issued an article that will help to shed light on the matter.

Read more: U.S. Poised to Scrap Hundreds of M39 ATACMS Instead of Sending to Ukraine

Poised to receive the initial batch of new, more potent NH90 helicopters as a replacement for the aging ones, the German armed forces will have some Sea Kings spared which can then be decommissioned and handed over, a process taking up to half a year. One of the factors that prompted the transfer of surplus helicopters to Ukraine was "Kyiv’s positive experience operating the British Sea King helicopters," as noted by Naval News referring to a German defense ministry official.

Especially since the helis will soon become "surplus materiel," it would be better to give them over to Ukrainians who will benefit from them, while also helping Germany to maintain its face as one of Ukraine's leading military aid providers.

On a reminder from Defense Express, the United Kingdom had sent three Sea Kings in 2022, later revealed to be in service with the Ukrainian Navy.

As for their condition, the choppers are technically operational, partly thanks to the Sea King fleet "increasingly cannibalized" for spare parts to keep the remaining ones flying. The totality of Sea Kings in the German military as of 1998 was 21 units, eventually reduced to the current six.

The authors also detail the capabilities of Sea King Mk41, reserved for Ukraine, which define their place on the battlefield. The primary role is search-and-rescue (SAR), logistic, and maritime patrol missions. The helicopter has a radar helping it carry out those operations, and optional machine guns mounted on the side doors for self-defense.

Theoretically, attaching torpedoes or guided missiles is possible but for that, special weapon stations are necessary. Whether Germany is going to provide them or not is unknown. However, it's mentioned that Berlin will send spare parts, ballistic protection for the crew, and some elements of SAR equipment.

Sea King in the livery of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, April 2023
Sea King in the livery of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, April 2023 / Still frame credit: BBC News
Read more: ​Rare Bird: How Ukrainians Use British 40-Year-Old Sea King Helicopters and What Historic Role One of Them Played in 1982 Falklands War