Wings of the Fleet: 50 Years of the Canadian Sea King.

Author:Semrau, Mike R.
Position::Book review

Wings of the Fleet: 50 Years of the Canadian Sea King. By W.A. March, ed. Ottawa, Canada: Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre, 2015. Tables. Maps. Illustrations. Abbreviations. Notes. Pp. 140. Free at 1 ISBN: 978-1-100-25697-9

2013 marked the 50th anniversary for the CH-124 Sea King helicopter in Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and Air Force (RCAF) service. And with that, the Aerospace Warfare Centre published a commemorative compilation of 11 essays--part history and part lessons learned on Canada's use and operation of the Sea King. Each essay relates some of the salient moments in the roles and missions performed by the Sea King during its successful Canadian service.

Canada received 41 Sea Kings in 1963, basically similar to the US Navy's Sikorsky SH-3. Their primary role was to detect and, if necessary, destroy enemy submarines while operating from a new class of naval vessels. As a maritime nation, Canada faced the very real threat posed by new and more successful designs of Soviet submarines. Sea Kings deployed aboard RCN destroyers proved to be a successful weapon system.

The initial essays offer up an effective historical overview of the situation Canada found itself in in the Post-World War II era. Changing governments and fiscal realities necessitated realistic balancing of defense priorities such as home defense and Canada's commitment to NATO. Unification of the Canadian Armed Forces in 1968 gave the Sea King a new parent, the Royal Canadian Air Force under the Maritime Group, being dual tasked by the Naval Service and the Air Force.

By the 1980s, with expected life of the Sea King becoming a concern, the Department of National Defence (DND) began the process to select a successor. Initially, European Helicopter Industries' EH-101 was selected; but the collapse of the Soviet Union and election of a new government in 1993 resulted in cancellation of the EH-101. It was characterized as an overly expensive "Cadillac" holdover of the previous government. Canada is finally fielding the Sea King's replacement: the CH-148 Cyclone (a development of the Sikorsky H-92).

No one foresaw Sea Kings remaining in service for such a long period. Over the years, the logistics required to keep the CH-124s serviceable have proven to...

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