Ukraine Situation Report: Donated Sea King Helicopter Makes Debut Near Black Sea

British Westland Sea King helicopters made their official debut in Ukraine on Saturday — even sporting patriotic high-visibility Ukrainian markings — less than two months after London announced they would be donated to Kyiv’s cause.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov tweeted video showing the license-produced Sikorsky S-61 variant emblazoned in blue and gold national markings and a Ukrainian Naval Aviation roundel. The video appears to show a simulated combat search and rescue operation recovering a downed pilot with the helicopter’s hoist.

The British Ministry of Defense previously announced the Royal Navy had trained 10 Ukrainian crews and supporting engineers in a six-week course for the Sea King before it transferred three helicopters.

In Royal Navy service, the Sea King performed shipborne anti-submarine warfare (ASW), search and rescue (SAR), airborne early warning (AEW), and utility transport. Variants also served in a SAR role with the Royal Air Force. The precise version, or versions, supplied to Ukraine have not been revealed, but the accompanying video shows one of the SAR models, the Sea King HU5 that was formerly operated by the U.K. Royal Navy until finally retired in 2016.

Sea King HU5 during service with the Royal Navy. (Andrew Thomas/Wikicommons)

Before we dive into the latest updates from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up on our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

Saturday’s intelligence update from the British Ministry of Defense highlighted three sectors of the sprawling Ukrainian frontline seeing the most action in recent days. Attacks and counterattacks continue in the north near the town of Kremina, while a vicious pitched battle for momentum continues around the towns of Bakhmut and Soledar. More interestingly, the update also noted both sides forces’ massing in Zaporizhzhia Oblast to the south.

It bears mentioning this graphic showing Russian forces’ vast construction of defensive positions, with entrenched fortifications stretching the entire front. The positions protect not only towns, but also the supply lines and road junctions that connect them.

We wrote about this growing defensive line, particularly with regard to areas around the city of Melitopol, which you can read about here

Ukraine’s pleas for more modern main battle tanks continue, and criticism of Germany’s ongoing hold on tank transfers is only getting louder. Pressure is mounting on Berlin, and namely German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, to allow the transfer of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, the latest call being joint statement by foreign ministers of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. 

The statement comes on the heels of this week’s Tallinn Pledge, in which a number of NATO members called for Ukraine to receive modern tanks. While the game of diplomatic hot potato over the more numerous Leopard 2 continues, the U.K. has committed a squadron of its Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, and its defense ministry tweeted video showing the tank’s capabilities Saturday. 

The Ukraine Defense Contact Group met and adjourned at Ramstein Air Base in Germany this week without an agreement on Leopard transfers, which you can read more of our coverage on here. While western governments wrangle over heavy armor, Russian forces are putting their own modern tanks to use. Tank Diary (@TankDiary ) has posted several clips from the frontline in recent days showing Russian T-90M tanks in combat, both from onboard cameras and from above via drones.

The prospect of facing dug-in T-90Ms within Russia’s network of defensive positions in occupied territory could play into Kyiv wanting more modern western tanks in addition to its inventory of largely Soviet-era tanks. Despite this, Army Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the Ramstein meeting Ukraine has the firepower, even absent modern tanks, to go on the offensive. 

Ukraine’s arsenal of improvised weapons continues to grow, as evidenced by this truck-mounted 122mm Grad rocket launcher. Although lacking the firepower for a full barrage, especially in comparison to the BM-21’s 40 Grad tubes, these improvised MLRS can shoot and scoot their way around the battlefield to support infantry. 

Video shows a special unit of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate, “Wings,” using first-person view kamikaze drones against Russian positions. The compilation of clips show the compact drones flying in head-first toward their targets, with distant drones capturing the moment of impact.

Finally, it looks like the incredible feat that was Ukraine’s sinking of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet flagship Moskva, has made its way to the museum. Video shows a science museum in Lviv has an exhibit where with the push of a button, you too can send a model of the Project 1164 Slava-class cruiser to its watery grave. 

That’s all for now. We will update this story if there is anything major to add.

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