large anti-submarine helicopter
The Sikorsky CH-124 Sea King replaced the H04-S in the 1960s for shipborne use. First flown off HMCS BONAVENTURE, Canada's last aircraft carrier, the Sea Kings were also flown from the decks of ST. LAURENT and ANNAPOLIS class destroyers when the latter became available and the former were converted to helicopter carrying destroyers. The Canadian Navy pioneered the use of such a large helicopter from the deck of small destroyers, and all destroyers were fitted with the new Beartrap helicopter haul-down device (the USN eventually adopted this equipment as the RAST). Sea Kings have been the workhorses of the fleet for over 40 years now, and have delivered excellent service for a large portion of that time.
The Sea Kings have received several upgrades over the years, including new engines, radar, missile avoidance countermeasures, and a FLIR (Forward Looking Infra-Red) camera. However, the sonar system is antiquated, and the Sea Kings are now somewhat of a weak link for the warships that carry them (in addition to their increasing unreliability).
Some sources suggest a recommended 20 lifetime for these aircraft;
aside from being complex machines which eventually wear out, helicopters
operating from the decks of small warships also suffer from salt water corrosion
and added stresses to the airframe. However, the intended procurement of
the EH-101 to replace the Sea King in the early 1990s fell through. The Sea
Kings are still flying today and will continue to do so for the near future,
until they are replaced. The government has selected the new Sikorsky H-92
to replace the Sea King, but these helicopters must be converted for use
off warships and will not be ready until 2008 at the earliest. Until then,
the personnel who fly in the Sea Kings must continue to operate increasingly
cantankerous helicopters that require a considerable number of maintenance
hours for each hour in the air.
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