September 2016

2016_SeptemberU.S. Navy/Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King
Developed for the U.S. Navy for antisubmarine warfare
XHSS-2 first flight: March 11, 1959
HSS-2 first delivery to U.S. Navy: September 1961

The Sikorsky SH-3 (originally HSS-2) was funded by the US Navy in 1957 as a derivative of its HSS-1 (H-34). It was similar only in rotor/tail rotor and landing-gear configuration, being powered by two turbine engines rather than a single reciprocating engine and having a fuselage with a boat-type lower hull. The light-weight, powerful turbine engines allowed a single HSS-2 to operate as both a hunter of submarines using its dipping sonar, as well as a destroyer of them since it could carry torpedoes in addition to the sonar crew and full fuel. The mission previously required two HSS-1s. The HSS-2 was redesignated SH-3A in late 1962.

The SH-3 featured a 62 ft (18.9 m) five-bladed, fully-articulated main rotor with automatic folding for compact shipboard parking. The aft end of the tail boom, which supported a four-bladed tail rotor, could be folded forward to reduce its overall length. Over time the General Electric T58 engine was increased to 1,400 hp (1,045 kW). The maximum gross weight was eventually 22,000 lb (9,879 kg).

The basic Model 61 design, with its excellent performance and large cabin, proved to be adaptable to a number of missions, both civil and military. It was license-built in Canada, England, Italy and Japan. More than a dozen foreign military services operated it in addition to the US Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marine Corps. The President of the United States still uses an SH-3 for travel by helicopter.

In late 1961 and early 1962, a specially prepared HSS-2 was used to break 2 mi (3 km), 60 mi (100 km), 310 mi (500 km), and 620 mi (1,000 km) helicopter speed records. It held the absolute helicopter speed record between February 1962 and March 1963 at 210.6 mph (338.9 km/hour). In 1965 a Sea King — overloaded with extra fuel — made a non-stop transcontinental flight from the carrier Hornet off the coast of San Diego, California, to the carrier F.D. Roosevelt off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida. 

(U.S. Navy photo; text by Tommy H. Thomason) 

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