The Westland Commando was operated by the Royal Navy as the HC4. It was a commando assault and utility transport version

The main role of the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters is to protect the fleet from attack by enemy submarines. These aircraft are fitted with sophisticated sensor systems and equipped with missiles and torpedoes to track and hunt enemy submarines. The Westland WS-61 Sea King is the British licensed version of the American Sikorsky S-61 helicopter, built by Westland Helicopters. The aircraft was significantly different from the American version, with Rolls-Royce Gnome engines, British-made anti-submarine warfare systems and a fully computerised flight control system.

Designed primarily for anti-submarine warfare missions, there is a variant of the Sea King adapted by Westland as a troop transport and called the Commando. The Westland Commando was operated by the Royal Navy as the HC4. It was a commando assault and utility transport version, with simplified undercarriage, and an elongated cabin to increase troop carrying area. A total of 42 were built.

Westland Commando HC4
Westland Commando HC4

The Commando can accommodate up to 28 fully equipped troops and had originally been developed to meet an Egyptian Air Force requirement. Due to the deletion of the amphibious capability, not required in the Egyptian desert, the most noticeable change from the Sea King was the deletion of the side floats, the main undercarriage being carried on stub sponsons.

An improved variant of the Egyptian Commando, with changes including the fitting of folding blades common to the ASW variants, was designated as the Sea King HC4 by the Royal Navy and all the aircraft were new build. First flying on 26 September 1979, due to its operational range of up to 600 nautical miles without refuelling, the HC4 ‘Commando’ became an important asset for amphibious warfare and troop transport duties, in particular.

The twin-engine aircraft was designed with a watertight boat-like bottom fuselage to allow them to land and float in mild sea conditions. Above the right-hand-side fuselage door is a rescue hoist. The Sea King helicopter had an overall length of 72ft 8in, and a height of 16ft 9in. Empty weight of 9,762lb and had a maximum take-off weight of 21,000lb. Top speed was 166 mph with a range of 621 miles. They had a service ceiling of 14,700ft.

Several Royal Naval Air Squadrons have operated the Commando variant, such as 845, 846 and 848 Naval Air Squadron. In British service, the Sea King HC4 was deployed on operations in the Falklands, the Balkans, both Gulf Wars, Sierra Leone, Lebanon and Afghanistan. Towards the end of the Sea King’s operational life, several HAS6s were repurposed by the removal of the ASW equipment, as troop transports. In 2010, the last of the UK’s converted ASW Sea Kings to troop transports were retired.


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