IT SURVIVED being shot down in the Falklands War and peppered with bullets in Bosnia.
And it was feared luck had finally run out for the Royal Navy’s oldest helicopter when it was blasted by a Taliban rocket in Afghanistan.
But Sea King ZA298 – nicknamed King of the Junglies by the military – is set to return to the warzone later this year thanks to aircraft engineers from Gosport.
The veteran chopper, which has clocked up 9,000 flying hours since 1982, was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade as it came in to land at a checkpoint in Helmand in late 2009.
The grenade struck behind the cockpit and passed out of the other side of the fuselage, leaving a door gunner with minor injuries.
It appeared to be a sad end to an illustrious career until a team from Vector Aerospace spent 18 months painstakingly rebuilding the aircraft.
Keith Taylor, head of Sea King support at Vector Aerospace at Fleetlands, Gosport, said: ‘It came to us with a whopping big hole in its side. It was in a bad way.
‘It was challenging work but when we receive aircraft in that kind of condition and we’re able to recover it, it’s a huge sense of achievement.’
Thirty years ago, ZA298 was shot at by an Argentine Sky Hawk during the Falklands conflict.
The 30mm cannon shells struck one of the Sea King’s rotor blades – but she was back in the air two hours later after emergency repairs.
Two days later, the chopper was used to ferry the Argentine commander in the Falklands to HMS Fearless for surrender negotiations.
ZA298 also suffered damage from small arms fire when flying in Bosnia during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. The close shaves have earned the aircraft the tag King of the Junglies in reference to the Jungly nickname given to the navy’s green Sea Kings which support the Royal Marines on operations around the world.