Length (fuselage): 48 feet 5 inches
Main rotor diameter: 56 feet
Height: 15 feet 10 inches
Empty: 8,340 pounds
Loaded: 13,500 pounds
Power: Coupled de Havilland Gnome H.1200 Mk.110/111 turboshaft engines, limited to 1,550 shaft horsepower total
Maximum speed: 115 knots (132 mph)
Climb rate: 1,650 feet per minute
Range: 270 nm (310 miles)
Ceiling: 12,000 feet
Crew: Two pilots
Capacity: 16 troops or eight stretchers
Britain’s Westland Wessex was conceived as a license-built version of the Sikorsky H-34 helicopter. After testing in 1956, however, Westland Aircraft replaced its Wright Cyclone radial piston engine with a lighter Napier Gazelle turboshaft engine to allow for a greater load capacity and rapid starting. The airframe required further modification to accommodate the lighter engine, and on June 20, 1958, the Wessex HAS.1 passed its first flight test. In 1960 it entered the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm as the service’s first purpose-built anti-submarine helicopter, equipped with a dipping sonar array. Besides sub hunting, troop transport and general utility duties, the Wessex proved its worth in search and rescue operations at sea, and by 1962 the Royal Air Force had adopted it for mountain SAR missions. A pair of de Havilland Gnome turboshaft engines powered later variants.
The Wessex first saw combat in 1962–66 during the undeclared war between Indonesia and newly formed Malaysia. During the 1982 Falklands War nine of the 55 Wessexes deployed were lost, though one, from the destroyer HMS Antrim, detected and disabled the Argentine submarine Santa Fe off South Georgia that April 25. The Royal Australian Navy used the Wessex in Vietnam. The two-engine Westland Sea King gradually replaced the Wessex, the last of which retired from British service in 2003. A total of 382 were built.
The Royal Air Force Westland Wessex HC.2 shown, XV721/H, entered service in 1968 and deployed to Northern Ireland the next year to participate in Operation Banner. After 34 years with No. 72 Squadron, which remained active in Northern Ireland through 2002, XV721/H went on to serve in the Uruguayan navy. MH