Developed from the same program that produced the Westland Scout for the British Army, the Westland Wasp was a first generation turbine-powered helicopter produced for the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. A total of 133 Wasps were produced following its first flight in October 1962 and was used primarily as an anti-submarine helicopter operating from Frigates and other vessels. Whilst able to carry a pair of homing torpedo's, the Wasp had no ability to detect a submarine itself and had to rely on target guidance from a ship or other aircraft/helicopters equipped with sonar. The Wasp featured a number of features that ideally suited it to a life on board a combat ship including castering wheels for excellent deck handling together with the ability to apply negative pitch through its rotor-blades to hold the helicopter in place on deck in a rough sea until it could be lashed in place.
The Wasp entered frontline service with the Fleet Air Arm in 1964 and was paired with the Wessex HAS.3 in the anti-submarine role where the Wessex would detect the Submarine and the Wasp would then attack it with torpedo's and later, AS.12 anti-ship missiles. The Wasp began to be replaced by the Westland Lynx from 1970 onwards but remained in service until 1988 when the last Type 12 Frigate, which carried the Wasp, also retired. The Wasp has the distinction of being involved in the attack on the Argentinian submarine ARA Santa Fe during the Falklands conflict where a pair of Wasps engaged the Submarine with AS.12 missiles alongside a Lynx using a torpedo and depth charges plus a Wessex using a machine gun. The ARA Santa Fe was too damaged to submerge and was eventually abandoned.
Operated by Navy Wings, this year's Air Tattoo static display will include Wasp HAS.1 XT420/G-CBUI. XT420 entered service in 1964 and operated aboard the HMS Nubian, HMS Hecate, HMS Aurora and HMS Ajax whist attached to 829 NAS. This Wasps was also based in the Falklands Islands where it was used for casualty evacuations before being sold by the Royal Navy in 1994
Photo credit: Nick Jennings
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