July 2019

Westland Sea King HAR.3

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Westland WS-61 Sea King HAR.3

D Flight, 202 Sqn, RAF Lossiemouth, 1981

Fujimi 1/72 with some  scratch mods

The Sea King first entered service with the UK armed forces 50 years ago as an advanced anti submarine warfare platform for the Royal Navy.  Nine years later the RAF also adopted it as a replacement for its Search and Rescue Wessex and Whirlwind aircraft.  Based in small flights at RAF stations around the UK and in the Falklands, SAR Sea Kings remained in RAF service until 2016, when the entire RN and RAF SAR force was outsourced to civilian providers.

This particular build happened almost by accident.  I have a number of these Fujimi kits stashed away, but one of them was missing its cabin transparency - a fairly major shortfall, but one that is very common when buying secondhand kits. Over the last few years I had attempted to source an aftermarket replacement and tried to crash-mould my own, but with no success.  

Cue this kit, which was on sale, part started, at the Wells Saturday market for £5.  Original problem solved, but I struggle to throw away any kit and the donor, whose cabin parts were assembled and the extra RAF windows cut out of the fuselage, has sat staring at me from my model pile for the last 18 months.

All pictures © by gengriz.co.uk  

Derived from the Sikorsky S-61 design for the US Navy, British Sea Kings differ substantially from their US equivalents  with different engines, avionics and interior layouts.  The SAR version was a stripped down variant, without sonar but retaining the surface search radar and with an extended cabin interior and extra observation windows in the aft fuselage.  The RN also used Sea Kings  in the SAR role, but based on stripped out ex-ASW and utility airframes.

Despite its operational success, the Sea KIng was not initially a popular choice for the SAR role.  Much heavier than the Wessex, but with a similar rotor disc size, it produced much more downdraft, making safe recovery of persons from small  boats a tricky operation.  Nevertheless, RN & RAF SAR pilots quickly derived ways around this, sometimes using the downdraft as a benefit, as dramatically shown when RN Sea Kings used their rotor wash to push lifeboats away from the burning RFAs, Sir Tristram & Sir Galahad, during the Falklands war.     

Until the relatively recent release of Dragon, Revell and the newer Airfix Sea King kits, the Fujimi kit was the best option available.  Its a little simplified in detail, based on the US SH-3 variant and missing the exterior differences fitted to the Westland aircraft.  However, for an early Sea King these issues are easily resolved, and I have previously used the superb C-Scale white metal conversion kits (sadly no longer in production) to create HAS.5 and HC.4 versions (see below).  The nose of this kit is its worst part - it is too short, leading to an overly vertical front windows and very small nose section.  That said, Revell & Dragon don’t seem to have got it entirely right either; Monogram and the old Airfix kits are travesties, most noticeable when you try to fit the barn doors to the old Airfix kit. I’ve yet to build the Airfix kits, but I have high hopes!

So; what to do with the missing canopy.  My first attempt was to create a female mould from one of the other kits, using aluminium foil and Plastic padding.  

The mould was good, but I couldn’t get the acetate to form sufficiently sharply inside it. Options such as clear resin would have been more expensive than buying a new kit and that really wasn’t the point.  However, following the success of replacing parts on my 2017 A-4KSkyhawk build, I decided to give it another go, this time using re-usable silicone mould material to create a Milliput male mould.  

This worked a treat, with an old fruit acetate container heated using a hair dryer then with the mould forced into it and pulled tightly around it whilst still applying heat (warning - I burnt my fingers again) . The side windows were most difficult and I considered cutting them out and doing them separately, but in the end I was happy with my replacement!    The lower windows were made separately, again using one of the other kit canopies as a pattern.

The real thing -   A HAR.3 at RIAT 2015.   The orignal “barn door” de-icing shield above the cabin roof was replaced by amore effective FOD & De-icing set  during the final years of the Sea King’s service

The real thing -   A HAR.3 at Yeovilton Air Show

My other Sea Kings (to date!) - More detail (and many more helicopters) on my Helicopters pages