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Westland Wessex: Wikis


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A Royal Navy Wessex HU5 at Ascension Island in 1982
Role Helicopter
National origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer Westland Aircraft
Westland Helicopters
First flight 20 June 1958
Introduced 1961
Retired 2003 (Royal Air Force)
Primary users Royal Navy
Royal Air Force
Royal Australian Navy
Uruguayan Air Force
Number built 356
Developed from Sikorsky H-34

The Westland Wessex is a British turbine-powered version of the Sikorsky S-58 "Choctaw", developed under license by Westland Aircraft (later Westland Helicopters), initially for the Royal Navy, and later for the Royal Air Force. The Wessex was built at Westland's factory at Yeovil in Somerset.


Design and development

An American-built Sikorsky HSS-1 was shipped to Westland in 1956 to act as a pattern aircraft. It was re-engined with a Napier Gazelle turboshaft engine, and first flew in that configuration on 17 May 1957.[1] The first Westland-built Wessex XL727, a Wessex HAS.1 first flew on 20 June 1958,[1] and they entered anti-submarine duties in 1961 with the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. The Royal Navy's anti-submarine examples (HAS Mk.1, HAS Mk.3) also used the Gazelle engine.

The design was adapted in the early 1960s for the RAF, and later Royal Marines, to become a general-purpose helicopter capable of troop-carrying, air ambulance and ground support roles. In contrast with the HAS.1, it used twin Bristol Siddeley Gnome engines. These marks (HC.2, HCC.4, HU.5) had a single large exhaust on each side of the nose, the Gazelle-powered examples having a pair of smaller exhausts on either side.

Operational history

The Wessex was first used by the RN, the RAF first used the helicopter in 1962, and did not finally retire until January 2003, being the main transport helicopter until the introduction of the Aérospatiale Puma. The bright yellow RAF machines used for air-sea or mountain rescue duties became especially famous and saved many lives.

The Navy pressed the development of the HAS.1 into the improved HAS.3, coming into service in 1967. It saw embarked service on the County Class destroyers. The HAS Mk.3 could be identified by a dorsal radome and strake extending behind the "hump".

Wessex helicopters were also used by the Queen's Flight of the RAF to transport VIPs including members of the British Royal Family, from 1969 to 1998. Those Royal helicopters were designated HCC.4 and were essentially similar to the HC.2 but with an upgraded interior, additional navigation equipment and enhanced maintenance programmes. A later version used by the Royal Marine Commandos was the HU.5.

A crisis arose in 1962 as Brunei was not included in the newly formed Federation of Malaya and Indonesia threatened confrontation, including a continuation of the effort started by the North Kalimantan Liberation Army. By February 1964, RAF and Royal Navy Helicopters including some Westland Wessex operating from bases in Sarawak and Sabah to assist Army and Marine detachments fighting guerilla forces infiltrated by Indonesia over its one thousand mile frontier with Malaysia. In Borneo, the helicopter played a major role in fortifying the frontier and maintaining the frontier strong points by airlifting supplies in.

A total of around fifty-five Westland Wessex HU.5s went to the Falklands War in the South Atlantic in 1982, though a few of these, sent as replacements, did not arrive until after the end of hostilities. The prime role of the UK Marines helicopters was the landing, and moving forward, of Rapier missile systems, fuel, artillery and ammunition.

On 21 May 1982, 845 Squadron's Wessex HU.5s supported British landings on East Falkland. Some days later short-term SAS observation posts were inserted, with help from Wessex HU.5s, on the mountains behind Stanley. All six of 848 Squadron's Wessex HU.5s were destroyed after the container ship Atlantic Conveyor was hit by an Argentine Exocet missile.

A Wessex of the Uruguayan Navy in mission

16 former RAF Wessex HC.2 were supplied to Uruguay. The Uruguayan Navy received 5 helicopters in 1998, with the Uruguayan Air Force taking delivery of 11 helicopters in three batches from 2000 until 2003. Today, the Uruguayan Naval Aviation has a single Westland Wessex HC2 still in service. It is the last of the type flying with any air arm in the world.


A Wessex HAS1 at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford (UK)
A Wessex at the Australian National Mairitme Museum
Wessex HAS1
RN utility, anti-submarine warfare, later air-sea rescue only, 140 built, some later comverted to HAS3.
Wessex HC2
RAF Troop carrier for up to 16 troops, One prototype converted from HAS1 and 73 built.
Wessex HAR2
RAF search and rescue conversions.
Wessex HAS3
RN anti-submarine version with improved avionics with a radome on the rear fuselage, 3 new-build development aircraft and 43 converted from HAS.1
Wessex HCC4
VVIP transport for the Queens Flight, two built
Wessex HU5
RN service troop transporter, carried 16 Royal Marines, 101 built
Wessex HAS31
Royal Australian Navy anti-submarine warfare model, 27 built.
Wessex HAS31B
Updated anti-submarine warfare model for the Royal Australian Navy.
Wessex 52
military transport version of the HC2 for the Iraqi Air Force, 12 built.
Wessex 53
Military transport version of the HC2 for the Ghana Air Force, two built.
Wessex 54
Military transport version of the HC2 for the Brunei Air Wing, two built
Wessex 60
Civilian version of the Wessex HC2, 20 built.

Notable accidents

  • G-ASWI - Bristow Helicopters. Crashed (North Sea) August 1981; no survivors


Military Operators

 United Kingdom

Civil Operators

 United Kingdom

Specifications (Wessex HC.2)

General characteristics

  • Crew: Two pilots (civilian type 60 Wessex cleared for single pilot operation in UK)
  • Capacity: 16 troops or 8 stretchers
  • Length: 65 ft 8 in (20.03 m)
  • Rotor diameter: 56 ft 0 in (17.07 m)
  • Height: 16 ft 2 in (4.93 m)
  • Disc area: 2,463 ft² (229 m²)
  • Empty weight: 8,304 lb (3,767 kg)
  • Loaded weight: lb (kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 13,500 lb (6,123 kg)
  • Powerplant:Rolls-Royce Gnome turboshaft, 1,535 shp (1,150 kW) each


See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft


  1. ^ a b Taylor 1965, p.169.
  • Allen, Patrick. Wessex,1988, Airlife ISBN 1-85310-050-1.
  • Ovcacik,Michal and Susa, Karel. Westland Wessex: Rotary Wings Line, 1st edition 1998, 4+ Publications, Prague Czech Republic, (in English) ISBN 80-902559-0-6.
  • Taylor, John W. R. (editor). Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1965-66. London:Sampson Low, Marston, 1965.

External links

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