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CH-124 Sea King
A Canadian Forces CH-124 Sea King
Role ASW / utility helicopter
National origin United States / Canada
Manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft
Built by United Aircraft of Canada
Introduction 1963[1]
Status Active service
Primary users Canadian Forces
Royal Canadian Navy
Royal Canadian Air Force
Number built 41
Developed from SH-3 Sea King

The Sikorsky CH-124 Sea King is a twin-engined anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter designed for shipboard use by Canadian Naval forces, based on the US Navy's SH-3 (or S-61) and has been continuously in service with the Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Forces since 1963.

Design and development

The advent of nuclear-powered attack submarines in the late 1950s prompted RCN leaders to assess the new threat they posed. Although these craft were noisier than older submarines and could therefore be detected at longer ranges, they were also capable of 30 knots (56 km/h) while submerged, which was faster than the top speed of the RCN's new St. Laurent class destroyers at 28.5 knots (52.8 km/h). Some RCN leaders harbored serious doubts that the destroyers could effectively pursue and destroy such fast vessels, even when operating in pairs. During a 25 February 1959 meeting of the Naval Board, it was decided that the Navy would counter the new threat by outfitting destroyers for helicopter operation.[2]

The RCN had examined the feasibility of operating ASW helicopters from small escorts when it modified the Prestonian-class frigate HMCS Buckingham (FFE 314) in mid-1956 with a temporary helicopter landing platform. Successful trials were held in October 1956 using a Sikorsky HO4S-3[3][4] and a larger temporary landing platform was soon installed on the new destroyer escort HMCS Ottawa (DDE 229). Operational trials were conducted using an RCAF Sikorsky S-58, a substantially larger and heavier aircraft than the HO4S, and the success of these tests led to approval of the concept.[4][5]

To achieve the goal, the RCN needed a helicopter capable of all-weather day-and-night operations with a heavy weapons load- capabilities the HO4S, the RCN's current utility helicopter, did not possess. Initial 1959 studies identified two helicopters that would meet the upcoming requirements- the Sikorsky S-61 (HSS-2) and the Kaman K-20 (HU2K)- but neither aircraft had flown at the time, so no choice was made. After further studies concluded that the smaller Kaman would better satisfy RCN requirements, the Treasury Board approved an initial procurement of 12 HU2K helicopters for $14.5 million in December 1960.[2]

Despite this apparent setback for Sikorsky, several factors would derail the Kaman proposal. When the Naval Board held a follow-up meeting on 27 January 1961 to discuss the program, it was revealed that the asking price for the initial 12 units had nearly doubled to $23 million, a mere 6 weeks after the Treasury Board had approved the purchase. The Naval Board continued to endorse the HU2K, but some RCN leaders had serious misgivings due to the drastic price increase and staff reports that Kaman's performance projections might be overly optimistic. The Naval Board decided to await upcoming USN sea trials of the HU2K before rendering a final decision.[6] The USN trials confirmed the calculations of RCN staff members; the HU2K was substantially heavier than promised, hampering its flight performance and rendering it incapable of meeting RCN requirements, even if Kaman were to install a proposed upgraded engine. The Sea King was ultimately chosen for production on 20 December 1961.[7]

The first of 41 helicopters would be delivered in 1963 carrying the designation CHSS-2 Sea King. The airframe components were made by Sikorsky in Connecticut but most CHSS-2s were assembled in Longueuil, Quebec by United Aircraft of Canada (now Pratt & Whitney Canada), a subsidiary of Sikorsky's parent company. On 27 November 1963, the new landing platform aboard HMCS Assiniboine (DDH 234) was used for the first operational destroyer landing of a production CHSS-2.[8] Upon the unification of Canada’s military in 1968, the CHSS-2 was re-designated CH-124.[9]

The RCN developed a technique for landing the huge helicopters on small ship decks, using a 'hauldown' winch (called a 'Beartrap'),[10] earning aircrews the nickname of 'Crazy Canucks'.[11] The 'Beartrap' allows recovery of the Sea King in virtually any sea state.[12] In 1968, the RCN, Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and Canadian Army unified to form the Canadian Forces; air units were dispersed throughout the new force structure until Air Command (AIRCOM) was created in 1975. In August 2011, the Canadian Forces reverted to the former structure of the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force.

Operational service

Sikorsky CH-124A Sea King

The Sea King is assigned to Iroquois class (2 per ship with total of 6) destroyers, Halifax class (1 per ship with total of 12) frigates, and Protecteur class replenishment ships (3 per ship with total 6) as a means of extending the surveillance capabilities beyond the horizon. When deployed, the Sea King is accompanied by a number of crews - each with 2 pilots, a Tactical Coordinator (TACCO), and an Airborne Electronic Sensor Operator (AESOp).[13]

In order to find submarines, the Sea King's sonar uses a transducer ball at the end of a 450-foot cable. It can also be fitted with FLIR (Forward-Looking Infra-Red) to find surface vessels at night.

The CH-124 has undergone numerous refits and upgrades, especially with regard to the electronics, main gearboxes and engines, surface-search radar, secure cargo and passenger carrying capabilities.


From 1983 onward attempts were made to replace the aging Sea King helicopters. Due to a series of financial and political issues, the process was hampered by repeated delays. In the end the CH-148 Cyclone, a new version of the Sikorsky H-92 Superhawk was selected.


Sikorsky CH-124A Sea King with blades folded for storage.

Ch-124A Sea King aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63)

Anti-submarine warfare helicopter for the Royal Canadian Navy (41 assembled by United Aircraft of Canada).[9]
The Sea King Improvement Program (SKIP) added modernized avionics as well as improved safety features.[9]
Alternate version of the CH-124A without a dipping sonar but formerly with a MAD sensor and additional storage for deployable stores. In 2006, the 5 aircraft of this variant were converted to support the Standing Contingency Task Force (SCTF), and were modified with additional troop seats, and frequency agile radios. Plans to add fast-rope capability, EAPSNIPS (Engine Air Particle Separator / Snow & Ice Particle Separator) did not come to fruition.[9]
6 CH-124B's were upgraded to the CH-124B2 standard in 1991-1992. The revised CH-124B2 retained the sonobuoy processing gear to passively detect submarines but, the aircraft was now also fitted with a towed-array sonar to supplement the ship's sonar. Since anti-submarine warfare is no longer a major priority within the Canadian Forces, the CH-124B2 were refitted again to become improvised troop carriers for the newly formed Standing Contingency Task Force.[9]
One CH-124 operated by the Helicopter Operational Test and Evaluation Facility located at CFB Shearwater. Used for testing new gear, and when not testing new gear, it is deployable to any Canadian Forces ship requiring a helicopter.[9]
Unofficial designation for 4 CH-124's that were modified for passenger/freight transport. One crashed in 1973, and the survivors were later refitted to become CH-124A's.[9]



Specifications (CH-124 Sea King)

Orthographically projected diagram of the SH-3 Sea King.

General characteristics

  • Crew: 4 (2 pilots, 1 navigator, 1 airborne electronic sensor operator)
  • Capacity: 3 passengers
  • Length: 54 ft 9 in (16.7 m)
  • Rotor diameter: 62 ft (19 m)
  • Height: 16 ft 10 in (5.13 m)
  • Disc area: ft² (m²)
  • Empty weight: 11,865 lb (5,382 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 18,626 lb (8,449 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 22,050 lb (10,000 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × General Electric T58-GE-8F/-100 turboshafts, 1,500 shp (kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 166 mph (267 km/h)
  • Range: 621 mi (1,000 km)
  • Service ceiling: 14,700 ft (4,481 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,310-2,220 ft/min (400-670 m/min)


  • Mk 46 Mod V anti-submarine torpedoes
  • Various sonobuoys and pyrotechnic devices
  • door guns (some variants)
  • See also


    1. Requiem for the Sea King. Retrieved on November 17, 2008.
    2. 2.0 2.1 Soward 1995, pp.169-171.
    3. Soward 1995, pp.63-65.
    4. 4.0 4.1 Crowsnest Magazine - Vol 17, Nos 3 and 4 March-April 1965
    5. Soward 1995, pp.92-93.
    6. Soward 1995, pp.244-246.
    7. Soward 1995, pp.261-262.
    8. Soward 1995, pg. 326.
    9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 "CH-124 Sea King Variants". Canadian American Strategic Review. Archived from the original on 2007-09-11. Retrieved 2007-06-19. 
    10. "Haze Gray & Underway - The Canadian Navy of Yesterday & Today - Sea King". 
    11. "CBC News In Depth: Canada's Military". 1 February 2006. Archived from the original on 2 November 2003. 
    12. ST. LAURENT Class History.
    13. "Canada's Air Force - Aircraft - CH-124 Sea King - Technical Specifications". 
    14. 14.0 14.1 Sikorsky CH-124 Sea King
    15. "No. 443 Squadron". Retrieved 23-March-2013. 
    16. "No. 406 Squadron". Retrieved 23-March-2013. 
    17. "423 Maritime Helicopter Squadron". Retrieved 23-March-2013. 
    • Soward, Stuart E. Hands to Flying Stations, a Recollective History of Canadian Naval Aviation, Volume II. Victoria, British Columbia: Neptune Developments, 1995. ISBN 0-9697229-1-5.

    External links

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