Belgium and Norway have acquired recently retired Royal Air Force Sea King HA3As in order to provide spares for their own Sea King fleets. Belgium has acquired a single example, while Norway has acquired three of the type.
Two of the examples for Norway, serial numbers ZH540 and ZH543, had been stored in the Vector Aerospace facility at Fleetlands, Hampshire, where they had arrived on August 17 and 18 this year, respectively. They left there on November 10, making an overnight stop at Groningen-Eeelde Airport in the Netherlands, before arriving at Stavanger-Sola, Norway, the next day. The third helicopter has been flown to Kjeller, the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) Logistics Command maintenance base.
The RNoAF will use them as spares for its 12 remaining Sea King Mk 43Bs, which are operated by 330 Squadron at various locations around the country. The additional spares sources will assist in keeping the Norwegian examples in service until after 2020. The type will eventually be replaced in RNoAF service by 16 AW101 Mk 612s, the first of which are due to arrive in Norway in 2017.
The RAF Sea Kings have become available following the end of UK SAR operations with the type on October 4, when the final two helicopters, based at Chivenor, had been stood down. UK SAR has now been privatised and has been taken over by Bristow Helicopters, using AW189s and S-92s. One overseas RAF unit, 1564 Flight at Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands, will continue to fly the Sea King until next April, when AAR Airlift takes over the operation using AW189s. Alan Warnes