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5th Aircraft Squadron Coat of Arms
5th Aircraft Squadron Coat of Arms
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5th Aircraft Squadron Coat of Arms
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SH-3D at night
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SH-3W ‘Searchwater’ on a flight deck
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SH-3D on the flight deck of frigate ‘Reina Sofía’
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SH-3D ready to embark a Marine Corps squad

The Commander and crew of the 5th Aircraft Squadron (SH-3D helicopters) are pleased to welcome you “on board” one of the Units with more tradition in the Spanish Navy.

5th Aircraft Squadron (Sikorsky SH-3D "Sea King")
WEIGHT EMPTY: 12,500 lbs. MAX. TAKEOFF WEIGHT: 20,500 lbs.
LENGTH 22 m.
HEIGHT 5.18 m.
RANGE 4.8 hours.
CREW Up to 15 pax. + 2 pilots and 2 crew members
WEAPONS MG-1A machinegun
CEILING 14,000 feet.
SPEED Max: 120 knots.
Night Vision Goggles
AEW “Search water” radar

The original mission of the Squadron was anti-submarine warfare. As of 2001, the mission changed to transport, and all-weather amphibious assault. Other missions include:

  • Search & Rescue (SAR)
  • Medical evacuation (MEDEVAC)
  • Airborne Early Warning (AEW)
  • Aircraft control
  • Surface warfare

The 5th Aircraft Squadron is part of the Spanish Navy Air Flotilla with base in Rota Naval Base (Cádiz).

The SH-3D/W helicopter is manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft. It is a 5-blade, twin-turbine helicopter with emergency floating capability. It is a naval helicopter specifically designed for ASW (anti-submarine warfare), SAR and logistic support. In 2001 they were converted into transport helicopters for amphibious missions. They can carry up to 15 troops in all-weather tactical flights (day/night).

In their AEW version, they provide airborne early warning. They can also operate as TRU (target reporting unit); as aircraft controller and can take part in strikes.

The 5th Squadron was set up in February 1966. A total of 94 people formed the original workforce.

The first SH-3D to roll out of the SIKORSKY assembly line was acquired by the Spanish Navy. It was the prototype of all SH-3Ds flying now all over the world.

This helicopter (MORSA 501) embarked on board the USS INDEPENDENCE and flew from the carrier to Rota Naval Base on June 29th 1966. In that year and the next, six other helicopters joined the Squadron. Two more units were procured in 1972 and 4 more in 1974. In 1981 a final batch of 6 choppers was acquired. The last one (MORSA 518) was the last SH-3D to roll out of the assembly line.

The personnel assigned to the 5th Aircraft Squadron were very impressed by the sheer size of the helicopters and dubbed them “Sacred Cows”.

The Spanish Navy decided to fit these helicopters with AEW equipment to protect its Carrier Combat Group, and selected the “Search Water” radar made by the British company THORN EMI ELECTRONICS LTD. This radar was chosen after analyzing the positive experience of the Royal Navy’s AEW “Sea Kings” during the Falklands War. Three systems were procured and fitted in the modified helicopters; a fourth was installed in a container and used as test bench and simulator.

In 1989 a most ambitious upgrading plan was set up to enhance the operational life of the aircraft. Structural modifications were made, dynamic components and electronic equipment updated, and the general configuration standardized in order to simplify maintenance.

In 2001 they were converted into amphibious transport helicopters for troops and logistic transport, vertical replenishment, VOD, SAR, surface search missions, and Special Naval Warfare.

Seven helicopters have been lost with a toll of 9 people (officers, NCOs and ratings).

There are currently 7 amphibious helicopters and 3 AEW which are carefully maintained and overhauled.

The present complement of the 5th Aircraft Squadron consists of 171 people.

  • 1 Lieutenant-Commander (Chief and pilot).
  • 32 officers (24 pilots and 6 controllers)
  • 65 NCOs (15 air crews)
  • 73 Leading seamen and ratings (5 air crews)

Since its conversion to its current amphibious assault configuration, the 5th Aircraft Squadron has taken part in the following real operations:

  • Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in the autumn of 2002. In the course of that operation, the Korean ship “So san” smuggling missiles was challenged and boarded.
  • In March 2003, the 5th Squadron deployed in Iraq for 4 months.
  • In September 2006, the Squadron took part in the UN mission in Lebanon.
  • In 2008, two helicopters participated in a MEDEVAC operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
  • As of September 2010, two helicopters take part in the anti-piracy operation ATALANTA in the Indian Ocean from different Spanish Navy ships.

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