The UK became the fifth country to supply helicopters to the Ukrainian military in November, after the US, Czech Republic, Latvia and Slovakia. The first of three ex-Royal Navy Sea Kings, most recently operated by the HeliOps company based at the former naval air base at Portland, arrived in south-western Poland in mid-November.
The Sea Kings had become redundant because the contract with HeliOps to train Marineflieger (German Naval Air Arm) crews expired last October. With the German Sea King fleet set to retire next year, they could well follow in the footsteps (or rotors!) of the former HeliOps helicopters that had served the Royal Navy’s 771 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) until 2016. Of course, we don’t know where they are now based because of the operational security (OPSEC) restrictions which is now playing a big part as the war in Ukraine rages on.
Obviously, Sea Kings can help augment the Ukrainian Navy’s Mi-8 fleet with transporting personnel and weapons, but its odd that no former Warsaw Pact country could donate more Mi-8/17s. From the stocks that the likes of Croatia, the Czech Republic and Poland have – I haven’t included Hungary for obvious reasons – you would have thought that a few spare ones could be found.
As we published in AirForces Monthly back in July, the Czech Air Force donated two Mi-35s in May. Ironically, this was not announced by the Czech MOD, but by the US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J Austin III. The US and UK appear to be more public in saying how they are co-operating with Ukraine than some, with the UK’s Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, being particularly open on how the UK is offering support.
On top of the Sea Kings and Mi-35s donated by the UK and Czech Republic, respectively, the US has donated 16 ex-Afghan Air Force Mi-8/17V-1/5s to Ukraine. These helicopters were flown to Uzbekistan by former Afghan Air Force personnel following the fall of Kabul on August 15, 2021, before being subsequently transferred to the US.
Latvia revealed it had donated two Mil Mi-2MSBs and two Mi-8MTV-1s (Mi-17s) to Ukraine on August 15, but not before North Macedonia donated its four-strong fleet of Su-25 Frogfoot-A/Bs to the war-torn nation on August 4. While Slovak government has donated surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems to Ukraine, it has yet to rule (at least publicly) what it intends to do with its recently retired MiG-29 Fulcrum fleet, with a transfer of these Soviet-era fighters to Ukraine definitely on the table.
Should the West increase the number of aircraft it is donating to Ukraine? If so, what do you logically think should be donated to Ukraine to help the nation continue to defend itself against the Russian invaders?