Airfix 1/72 Sea King HAR.3

KIT #: 03043
PRICE: GBP 7.99 at Hannants for the current release
DECALS: Two options


The Sea King is a very famous helicopter which needs little introduction.  Most people will have had one somewhere in the back of their minds lately thanks to all the recent TV coverage of the 40th anniversary of the moon landings.  Sea Kings - in particular, the US Navy's number 66 - were used to recover astronauts after splashdowns and there is some famous footage of that. Sea Kings work hard in many other roles too, including ASW, troop transport, humanitarian assistance and search and rescue.

Designed by Sikorsky and entering US service in the early 1960s, the Sea King was also licence built by Westland in the UK.  The Westland version entered service with the Royal Navy in 1969 as the Sea King HAS1. In Sikorsky and Westland form, the Sea King has flown with about 30 countries. More than 100 civilian examples were built and used in different roles around the globe, including in the oil and gas industry.

The Sea King HAR3 was the specialised search and rescue Sea King. The RAF bought 15 airframes which commenced duty in 1977, replacing the Wessex.  Extra purchases took the total to 19 a few years later, partly to provide SAR coverage from Mt Pleasant airbase in the Falklands after the war there in 1982. Another 6 were bought in 1992, equipped to the HAR3A standard with the first digital autopilot with coupled navigation system used on UK Sea Kings. These HAR3As seem also to have the sand box filters ahead of the air intakes (I think the whole fleet was updated with those).

The German rescue version is the Mk 41, also made by Westland, and still serves with the German military.

Many a shipwrecked sailor or hiker lost in the Scottish hills has been saved by the big yellow RAF Sea Kings.


Although this is a current offering from Airfix, in a newer box, I am fairly sure this is the same basic kit as the very old (1980) Airfix SH-3D which came with the famous 66 markings and Apollo splashdown box art. There is a full build article right here on MM: There are a few differences (mainly the new bubble-dome windows and the alternative tail rotors), but the basis of the kit seems to be the same.

That's why I wrote this preview, in case readers had in mind to get the current boxing of this model (especially anyone who has the Airfix RNLI Severn lifeboat kit).

Moulded in bright yellow softish plastic, this kit shows its age mostly in the old-school Airfix pilots. They are not as nice as more recent figures, like those that come in the Lynx helicopter, for example. In fact, they are verging on unusable, even for someone with generous standards. There is a bit of flash here and there but generally it is clean enough.

The cockpit is quite basic, even for Airfix. It comes with the two pilots, two very basic seats, a blank control panel (with no decal) and some pilot's sticks (both types needed for flying a chopper).

Behind the cockpit, the huge main cabin is empty but for a floor. That has a big hole in it to allow you to use the main rotor to raise or lower the dipping sonar.  The HAR3 rescue version doesn't have the sonar, of course.

Details are generic to Sea Kings, rather than being specific to the HAR3 or Mk41. There is a winch outside the main door, and there is a choice of RAF or German tail rotors. The more modern sand box filters in front of the engine intakes are not provided, so if you build the HAR3 at least, you're building a pre-1990s version (from what I can tell, the HAR3A came out with the sandbox filters in about 1992).

The main wheels and undercarriage are quite basic, though once inside their mountings there won't be much to see.

The main problem, easy to see from a quick test fit, is that the main canopy won't fit very well to the assembled fuselage.  Some modeling effort will be required here!

The other clear parts are nice and clear, particularly the two bubble-dome observation windows on the rear fuselage. My kit is missing one clear part but I think that's because I have had this kit for so long.

The decals look ok. Mine are probably beyond salvation as they seem to have suffered over the years. The paper is all dry, as though the carrier film somehow evaporated. Sounds stupid when it's written down but that is really how it looks. Happily, most of the markings are simply black lettering and most modelers will be able to find a few RAF roundels without much trouble. There are also markings for the German Mk 41 rescue chopper.

Decals in the new release, no doubt, are of the usual Airfix quality (which is not to be read as an endorsement!).


I'm a big Airfix fan but this isn't one of its best efforts. The main cabin has no interior detail at all, not even seats, and yet a rescue chopper is always going to look best with its door open and a crew member standing there to winch up the casualties from below. The Apollo version contained a sitting crewman for the doorway. The main canopy is not going to fit well, either, based on test fitting and other builders' reports.

There are undoubtedly better Sea Kings available (eg the Revell Mk 41) and in my part of the world, the current list price on this isn't so far below the list for a Revell, Hasegawa or Fujimi kit. If I was building a diorama with the big Airfix Severn lifeboat, I'd probably look for a better kit than this.

All that said, if you can find one cheaper than retail, and you don't mind scratching up some detail for the main cabin, you can have fun with this kit. I am only building it because I already own it, having had it in the stash for at least 15 years.

Richard F

October 2009

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

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