UK — Sea King returns to duties after 18-month reconstruction

After 18 months of recon­struc­tion Sea King heli­copter ZA298, from the Com­man­do Heli­copter Force, that was hit by a rock­et-pro­pelled grenade (RPG) in Afghanistan, has returned to front line duties with 846 Naval Air Squadron.

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Sea King heli­copter ZA298 was dam­aged whilst land­ing at a check­point in the Nad ‘Ali area of Hel­mand province in 2009 [Pic­ture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The sto­ry of the aircraft’s sur­vival start­ed in 2009 when it was hit and severe­ly dam­aged by an RPG whilst land­ing at a check­point in the Nad ‘Ali area of Hel­mand province.

The rock­et blast­ed its way through the air­craft, nar­row­ly miss­ing the pilot and com­man­der but slight­ly injur­ing the door gun­ner.

Chief Pet­ty Offi­cer (CPO) Neil Copeland, who was the Senior Air­craft Main­tain­er in Afghanistan at the time of the RPG attack, was at Roy­al Naval Air Sta­tion Yeovil­ton to wel­come the air­craft back to 846 Naval Air Squadron.

CPO Copeland led the recov­ery team that extract­ed the air­craft back to Camp Bas­tion and pre­pared the air­craft for its return to the UK.

Reflect­ing on the recov­ery he said:

“Because the air­craft was to be air­lift­ed from the check­point, the mis­sion was extreme­ly chal­leng­ing as we had to remove a con­sid­er­able amount of haz­ardous equip­ment and fuel from the air­craft to ensure everyone’s safe­ty and to reduce its over­all weight.

“We receive mil­i­tary train­ing in the­atre for this type of even­tu­al­i­ty, but work­ing on the rotor head, which was about 10 feet [3m] above the ground and four feet [1.2m] above the com­pound wall, cer­tain­ly con­cen­trat­ed the mind as we were in full view of the ter­ror­ists who were respon­si­ble for bring­ing the air­craft down.

“How­ev­er, the Army did an excel­lent job in pro­vid­ing cov­er and ensured we were able to get on with the task in hand.

“Look­ing at the air­craft now you would nev­er know it has suf­fered such cat­a­stroph­ic dam­age. Vec­tor Aero­space has done an excel­lent job,” he added.

This is not the first time ZA298 has sur­vived ene­my fire. Dur­ing the Falk­lands con­flict one of the aircraft’s rotor blades was hit by 30mm canon shells from an Argen­tine Sky­hawk air­craft, but with­in two hours its main­tain­ers had the air­craft fly­ing on anoth­er mis­sion.

Two days lat­er the ver­i­ta­ble war horse was used to fer­ry Gen­er­al Menen­dez, the com­man­der of the occu­py­ing Argen­tine troops, to HMS Fear­less where ini­tial sur­ren­der nego­ti­a­tions were being held. The air­craft also suf­fered dam­age from small arms fire when oper­at­ing in Bosnia.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

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