Westland Wasp

The Westland Wasp was a small 1960s British turbine powered, shipboard anti-submarine helicopter. Produced by Westland Helicopters, it came from the same P.531 programme as the British Army Westland Scout, and was based on the earlier piston-engined Saunders-Roe Skeeter. It fulfilled the requirement of the Royal Navy for a helicopter small enough to land on the deck of a frigate and carry a useful load of two homing torpedoes.

Westland Wasp HAS.1 in Royal Navy markings
Role Helicopter
National origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer Westland Helicopters
First flight 28 October 1962
Introduction 1963
Retired 2000 (Royal Malaysian Navy)
Primary users Royal Navy
Royal New Zealand Navy
Royal Netherlands Navy
Royal Malaysian Navy
Number built 133
Developed from Saro P.531

The Wasp sank one ship in combat, seriously damaging the ARA Santa Fe submarine in 1982 during the Falklands war.

Design and development

The increasing speed and attack range of the submarine threat, and the increased range at which this threat could be detected led to a Royal Navy requirement for a "Manned Torpedo-Carrying Helicopter" (MATCH). Contemporary shipboard weapons did not have the necessary range, therefore MATCH was in essence a stand-off weapon with the helicopter carrying the torpedo or other weapon to the target and being instructed when and where to drop it.[1] Unlike the larger Wessex, the Wasp carried no sonar of its own, and was limited strictly to working in partnership with its parent ship, other ships or other ASW units.[2]

The first prototype Saro P.531 flew on 20 July 1958,[3] with the prototypes being subject to detailed testing by the Royal Navy, including the evaluation of several different undercarriage layouts, before settling on the definitive arrangement. An order for a pre-production batch of two "Sea Scouts" was placed in September 1961. The first flight of the two pre-production Wasp took place on 28 October 1962.[4] Full production soon commenced, 98 in total being procured for the RN. The Wasp successfully exported to Brazil, the Netherlands, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand and South Africa. 133 aircraft were built in total.[5]

Wasp was essentially a navalised Scout, indeed it was originally to be called the Sea Scout, and differed mainly in design details. It had a unique 4-wheeled castering undercarriage that allowed the aircraft to be manoeuvred on small, pitching flightdecks. The Wasp had the ability of "negative pitch" from the rotor-blades which enabled the aircraft to "adhere" to the deck until the lashings were attached. Additional fuel tankage was installed in the cabin floor and both the tail boom and main rotor blades were foldable to allow stowage in the small hangars fitted to the first generation helicopter-carrying escorts. It was fitted with a winch above the starboard rear door, and also had the capacity to carry underslung loads from the semi automatic cargo release unit mounted under the fuselage. With a crew of 2 (Pilot and Missile Aimer/Aircrewman) and the capacity to seat 3 passengers Wasp was useful for short-range transport missions, and for casualty evacuation with room for one stretcher fitted across the rear cabin area.

Later modifications included the ability to carry the Nord SS.11 wire-guided missile, with the fitting of the Aimers sight in the left cockpit roof and the installation of large inflatable emergency floats in sponsons on either side of the cabin to prevent capsizing of the top-heavy aircraft in the event of ditching. The SS.11 had limited range to target small surface targets such as patrol boats or shore positions and this was later replaced by the AS.12, which effectively had double the range.

Operational history

Royal Navy

The Wasp HAS.1 was introduced to service in the small ships role in 1964, after an intensive period of trials by 700(W) IFTU between June 1963 and March 1964. It served in this primary role with 829 Naval Air Squadron, but also in training units to supply crews for the front line with 706 NAS between 1965 and 1967 and in 703 NAS between 1972 and 1981. Single airframes also served for light liaison duties in the Commando Assault squadrons, 845 NAS and 848 NAS until 1973. Although effective as a submarine killer, it was best deployed paired with a Wessex HAS.3 submarine hunter. In the late 1970s, the Westland Lynx started to replace the Wasp.

On 25 April 1982 the Argentinian submarine ARA Santa Fe was spotted by a Wessex helicopter from HMS Antrim. The Wessex and a Westland Lynx HAS.2 from HMS Brilliant then attacked it with depth charges, a Mk 46 torpedo, and also strafed it with GPMG. A Wasp launched from HMS Plymouth and two Wasps launched from HMS Endurance fired AS.12 anti-ship missiles at the submarine, scoring hits. Santa Fe was damaged badly enough to prevent her from submerging. The crew abandoned the submarine at the jetty on South Georgia and surrendered to the British forces, thus becoming the first casualty of the sea war, as well as the first direct engagement by the Royal Navy Task Force.

The last Wasp was finally withdrawn from service in 1988 when the last of the Type 12 Rothesay-class frigates was decommissioned.

Royal Malaysian Navy

The Wasp came into service with the Royal Malaysian Navy quite late, compared to the others nations who procured the aircraft. She joined the RMN on 8 April 1988. The Wasp had a relatively short career with that Navy, being phased out just ten years later when they were replaced by the Eurocopter Fennec.

Royal New Zealand Navy

The first four of an eventual nineteen Kiwi Wasps were purchased in 1966 being immediately assigned to the new Leander-class frigate of the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN), HMNZS Waikato. They provided numerous tasks, as well as taking part in the Armilla Patrol in the Persian Gulf during the 1980s. The Wasps were flown by RNZN pilots but maintained by ground crews of No. 3 Squadron RNZAF.

In 1997, four Wasps performed a flypast, marking the arrival of the new Anzac-class frigate, HMNZS Te Kaha.

The Wasp served 32 years with the RNZN, retiring in 1998, the same year HMNZS Waikato, which first operationally deployed the Wasp in New Zealand, was herself decommissioned. They were replaced by the SH-2 Seasprite as a stop gap until the Arrival of their SH-2G(NZ).

Royal Netherlands Navy

With the Royal Netherlands Navy beginning in the late 1960s, after the fire onboard HNLMS Karel Doorman, NATO anti-submarine commitments were taken over by a squadron of Westland Wasp helicopters, operated from six Van Speijk-class anti-submarine frigates. The shore base was at De Kooy. The Royal Netherlands Navy 860 Naval Air Squadron received 12 Wasp helicopters between November 1966 and June 1967, operated from Van Speijk-class frigates as AH-12As and flown in the ASW role. The last of the Dutch Wasps were eventually withdrawn from service in 1981 when they were replaced by the Westland Lynx.

Other operators

The Wasp was also in service with the Brazilian, Indonesian, and South African navies. The Indonesian aircraft are all former Dutch aircraft and were the last of the type in active service.

The last of the ten surplus Dutch Navy helicopters refurbished by Westland's for the Indonesian Navy was grounded in 1998. Flown by 400 Squadron (RON 400) from NAS Juanda, and when at sea were embarked upon the Indonesian Navy's ex UK Royal Navy Tribal-class and ex-Dutch Navy Van Speijk-class frigates.

The Brazilian Navy operated the Wasp as the UH-2 & UH-2A taking delivery of three new build helicopters in April 1966 and a further seven ex-Royal Navy helicopters in 1977. 1º Esquadrão de Helicópteros de Emprego Geral (HU-1) flew the helicopters from Navy's Gearing and Allen M. Sumner-class destroyers and the Niterói-class frigates.

The South African Navy received their first batch of ten new build airframes in 1963, which was followed by the delivery of a second batch of further 8 from 1973. Although only six were delivered due to the International arms embargo placed on South Africa during the apartheid regime. The Wasps were flown by 22 Flight, from Ysterplaat, the unit subsequently became 22 Squadron, Maritime Command in 1976. The helicopters were operated from the navy's President-class frigates. The South African Navy also acquired one ex Bahrain Public Security Force airframe as an instructional airframe to support its Wasp programme. The South African Navy withdrew their last Wasp in 1990.


Sea Scout HAS.1
The Sea Scout HAS.1 was the original Royal Navy designation for the Wasp.
Wasp HAS.1
Shipboard anti-submarine warfare helicopter for the Royal Navy.


 New Zealand
 South Africa
 United Kingdom

Aircraft on display


On display
  • Wasp HAS.1 N-7039, which was XT433 in the Royal Navy from 1965 to 1978, is on display at Campo Dos Afonsos.


On display
  • Wasp HAS.1 (XS569) is on display at the Flugaustellung L&P Junior, Hermeskeil.


On display
  • Wasp HAS.1 M499-07, which was XT426 in the Royal Navy from 1965 to 1992, is on display at the Maritime Museum, Melacca.

New Zealand

On display


On display
  • Wasp HAS.1 235 of the "Marineluchtvaartdienst" (MLD), former Royal Navy XT795, is on display at the Traditiekamer Marineluchtvaartdienst at De Kooy.

United Kingdom

  • G-BYCX a former South African WASP Mk 1B is based at Bembridge, Isle of Wight.[15]
  • G-BZPP a Wasp HAS.1 (was RN serial number XT793) is privately owned in Surrey and flies in Royal Navy markings as XT793.[15]
  • G-CBUI a Wasp HAS.1 (was RN serial number XT420) is privately owned in Surrey and flies in Royal Navy markings as XT420.[15]
  • G-KAXT a former Royal Navy (XT787) and Royal New Zealand Navy (NZ3905) Wasp HAS.1 is privately owned in Hampshire and, as a frequent visitor to airshows, is flown in Royal Navy south Atlantic camouflage scheme wearing the badge of HMS Endurance and its original tail number of XT787.[16]
On display
Stored or under restoration
  • G-KANZ a former RN (XT782) and RNZN (NZ3909) Wasp HAS.1 is under restoration at North Weald in RNZN markings as NZ3909.[15][21]
  • G-RIMM a Wasp HAS.1 (was RNZN NZ3907 and RN XT435) flew marked as XT435 but does not have a current Permit to Fly.[15]
  • Wasp HAS.1s XT427 and XT778 are held in storage by the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton.[22]
  • Former 829 NAS Wasp HAS.1 XT434 is privately owned.
  • Former 829 NAS Wasp HAS.1 XT439 is privately owned in Hertfordshire.[23]
  • Wasp HAS.1 XT437 is held by the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection at Old Sarum Airfield.[24]

A small number of helicopters are still used by the military and technical colleges for maintenance and engineering training.

Specifications (Wasp HAS.1)

Data from Westland Aircraft since 1915[25]

General characteristics



See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era



  1. Friedman 2006, pp. 245–246.
  2. James 1991, pp. 347, 372.
  3. James 1991, p.365.
  4. James 1991, pp.371–372.
  5. Donald and Lake 1996, p.439.
  6. "Força aeronaval da marinha". Archived from the original on 14 October 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
  7. "tentara nasional indonesia angkatan laut - HAS Wasp". Archived from the original on 14 October 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
  8. "Indonesia--Navy Westland-Wasp". Demand media. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  9. "Tentara Laut Diraja Malaysia". Archived from the original on 14 October 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
  10. "WORLD HELICOPTER MARKET 1968 Pg. 54". flightglobal.com. Archived from the original on 31 July 2013. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
  11. "Westland-Wasp HAS Mk1". saspresidentkruger.com. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  12. "Westland Wasp (XS527)". fleetairarm.com. Archived from the original on 22 February 2013. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
  13. Sturtivant, Ballance 1994, p. 363.
  14. "RNZAF Museum - Wigram". /www.warbirdsite.com. Archived from the original on 7 January 2010. Retrieved 14 September 2009.
  15. "GINFO Search Results Summary - Westland Wasp". United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 14 September 2009.
  16. Owner, TMartin statement 2016
  17. Ellis 2008, p. 192
  18. Ellis 2008, p. 22
  19. Ellis 2008, p. 190
  20. Ellis 2008, p. 43
  21. Ellis 2008, p. 54
  22. Ellis 2008, p. 193
  23. Ellis 2008, p. 76
  24. "BDAC Exhibit - Westland Wasp". Boscombe Down Aviation Collection. Archived from the original on 1 February 2015. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  25. James 1991, p.76.
  26. fuselage length 9.24 m: Donald and James 1996, p.439.
  27. de-rated to 710 shp (530 kW)
  28. Archived 23 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine The National Archives, London. AVIA 65/1862 E70.
  29. Archived 23 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine Photo of Wasp carrying WE.177A depth bomb
  30. "See chapter headed 'Other aircraft'". Archived from the original on 13 March 2010. Retrieved 17 November 2009.


  • Burden, Rodney A., Draper, Michael I., Rough, Douglas A., Smith, Colin R. and Wilton, David. Falklands: The Air War. Twickenham, UK: British Aviation Research Group, 1986. ISBN 0-906339-05-7.
  • Donald, David and Lake, Jon. (eds.) Encyclopedia of World Military Aircraft. London:Aerospace Publishing, Single volume edition, 1996. ISBN 1-874023-95-6.
  • Ellis, Ken (2008). Wrecks and Relics. Manchester: Crecy Publishing. ISBN 978-0-85979-134-2.
  • Friedman, Norman. British Destroyers & Frigates: The Second World War and After. Barnsley, UK: Seaforth Publishing, 2006. ISBN 978-1-86176-137-8.
  • James, Derek N. Westland Aircraft since 1915. London:Putnam, 1991, ISBN 0-85177-847-X.
  • Sturtivant, R; Ballance, T (1994). The Squadrons of The Fleet Air Arm. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. ISBN 0-85130-223-8.
  • Scout and Wasp: An All British Success Dave Billinge Aviation News Vol 71 No 2 February2009
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