After 43 years of loyal service, the Belgian Air Component’s Sea King Mk48 helicopter completed its last mission on March 21. Danny Reijnen looks back on an illustrious career.
Belgian Sea King
In 1976, five Westland-built Sea King Mk48 helicopters were delivered to the then independent Belgian Air Force. The first example to be permanently withdrawn from service, serial RS-01, was retired on December 4, 2008 and retained for preservation at the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History in Brussels. A second Sea King, RS-03, was withdrawn in August 2013 and used as a source of spares for the remaining trio. A former RAF Sea King HAR3A was also delivered for spares use in November 2015.
The remaining three Sea Kings in Belgian Air Component service continued to be operated by 40 Squadron from Koksijde air base on the North Sea coast. Their primary role was search and rescue (SAR) and the fleet accumulated around 60,000 flight hours in the last four decades with no airframes lost. In the course of 3,309 rescue missions, their crews brought 1,757 people to safety.