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Helicopters at sea

Catalogue number 115038

Beginnings of helicopters at sea

The Sikorsky VS-300 first flew in 1941 and attracted the attention of the U.S. Coast Guard as a suitable aircraft for convoy protection and air-sea rescue. Whilst the United States Navy initially appeared hesitant , the Admiralty quickly recognised the potential of helicopters at sea.

Credit: United Technologies Corporation

23.2cm x 17.6cm Photograph


Catalogue number 19026

Westland Dragonfly

This Westland Dragonfly was initially attributed to H.M.S. Eagle in 1953 and it was a considerable move on from the Sikorsky Hoverfly. Dragonflys were used aboard aircraft carriers as plane-guard, in ship-to-shore movements and air-sea rescue, replacing the more expensive and less efficient destroyer's traditional role.

23.9cm x 17.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 104083

Air-sea rescue exercise

The helicopter was well-adapted to replaced the flying boat in air-sea rescue. Here the Westland Dragonfly WG671 from 705 Squadron Gosport is performing an air-sea rescue exercise in the early 50s. The Dragonfly was a licence-built American Sikorsky S-51.

12.8cm x 12.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 19010

Air-lifting the doctor over to an injured man, 1948

With warships now carrying helicopters, it became possible to carry out cross-ship transfers quickly, notably in urgent cases. Here an American Sikorsky S-51 is getting the doctor to an injured man

Verso: “The doctor flies out to assist an injured man. The Navy doctor J.A. Murphy, holding on to the winch cable of a helicopter, is winched up from the warship “Missouri”, 24th November 1948, to treat a sailor injured by a propeller during an exercise, on board the aircraft carrier “Leyte” which we can see in the background. 27/11/48” in French

Credit: Associated Press

10.6cm x 15.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 114128

Westland Whirlwind

The Westland Whirlwind was a British-made version of the American Sikorsky S-55, the British prototype first flew in 1953. At the time of this photograph, XL884 was operating from the Royal Naval Air Station (R.N.A.S.) Lossiemouth in a search and rescue role. The Whirlwind was powered by the British Alvis Leonides Major 750 hp nine-cylinder, air-cooled radial engine.

20.5cm x 15.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 104076

A Whirlwind acting as plane guard with H.M.S. Ark Royal

A Whirlwind helicopter acting as the plane guard for H.M.S. Ark Royal during a cross-carrier exercise with U.S.S. Sarratoga in 1957. A Douglas AD-6 Skyraider has just landed on.

Verso:”An AD6 Skyraider being arrested in HMS Ark Royal during cross-operations with USS Saratoga. The rescue guard helicopter is on station on the port side.”

Credit: Royal Naval Official Photograph. Photographic Officer, H.M.S. Ark Royal, 14 Oct 1957.

20.2cm x 15.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 31026

Deck landing of a Westland Wessex

This Westland Wessex mk3 helicopter was part of 737 Squadron at Portland and is shown here during crossdeck landing practice with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Engadine, a helicopter support ship. The Wessex is now powered by a 1,450 shp Napier Gazelle 161 free gas turbine power plant. Is the equipment fixed to the outside of the airframe just behind the pilot some system to pivot the tailwheel when taxying?

Verso: "Wessex 3. Powered by a Napier Gazelle NGa.22 gas turbine. The Wessex 3 is currently in service with the Royal Navy as an anti-submarine search and strike helicopter. The Mk 3's up-to-date sonar equipment and radar are but two of the modern devices which greatly enhance its effectiveness in this vital sphere of naval warfare. January 1970."

Credit: Westland Helicopters Ltd.

20.3cm x 15.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 110019

Power plant of a Sikorsky H-34 -58.

With the nose panels open, we can see the details of the Turboméca Bi-Bastin engine - large air filters, hot gas exhauts for each motor, oil radiators.

Verso: “Bi-Bastan”

Credit: Union Syndicale des Industries Aéronautiques et Spatiales

18.2cm x 12cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 104015 (detail)

Saunders-Roe Saro Skeeter

The piston-engined Skeeter first flew in 1948 and went through numerous marks over the years. Mk 4 designed for use by Navy and mk 3 for Army or Navy but much development was necessary to meet the requirement of military use. The Skeeter design evolved into the turbine-powered Saro P.501 which itself became the Westland Wasp. This Skeeter was delivered in 1958 and went to the British Army.

16.5cm x 15.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 100085

Fairey Ultra Light helicopter

Whilst Saunders-Roe were proposing the Skeeter mk5 for naval use, Fairey had developed rotor-tip drive for an ultra-light helicopter. Air compressed by a licence-built French Turboméca Palouste BnPe.2 turbojet was fed to the rotor tip jets. The helicopter was of light construction and compact with a small diameter two-blade rotor turning at high revolutions. The helicopter shown here - G-APJJ - was built as a private venture when Ministry of Supply support for the project was withdrawn in 1956. It flew for the first time in 1958 and along with G-AOUJ, it was used for trials by the Royal Navy aboard H.M.S. Grenville– more than 70 landings and take-offs were performed by the two helicopters on a pitching and rolling deck. Although much information was obtained about operating light helicopters from small flight decks, work on the Fairey Ultra-light was abandoned in 1959. It looks like the helicopter test pilot Johnny Morton at the controls.

15.1cm x 10cm printed image


Catalogue number 109034

Bristol Sycamore

The Sycamore was not adopted by the Royal Navy although 14 Sycamores went to the Royal Australian Navy between 1952 and 1953. Well-adapted to operate in the wide open spaces of Australia, the helicopters also operated from naval stations and the aircraft carriers H.M.A.S. Sydney and Melbourne. Two Sycamores are evolving over H.M.A.S. Vengeance, the foremost is WA221 with either XA 219 or XA220 in the background. Once in Australia, this helicopter was involved in rescuing stranded men during the floods in February 1955. In one incident, as a man was being winched up, a second man grabbed the strop, overloading the winch and the helicopter lost power. Whilst attemping to land the men on a bridge, they fell from the strop into the water and drowned. At the same time the winch cable flicked back and hit a power line causing the helicopter to crash into the water too. The two-man crew were swept 8 km downstream before being rescued the an Army DUKW.

18.9cm x 23.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 111086

A Sycamore in the Air-Sea Rescue role

The Bristol Sycamore was part of the R.A.F./Army Joint Helicopter Development Unit and saw action during the Suez Crisis of 1956 proving the value of the helicopter-borne troop assault into hostile territory. This photograph shows the Royal Air Force XF509 in an air-sea rescue role and with the recovery scoop deployed. The helicopter was delivered in 1955 and was written-off in an accident in 1962.

Credit: The Bristol Aeroplane Company Ltd.

23.8cm x 16.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 104015

Saunders-Roe P-531

The Saro P.531 was a follow-on development of the Skeeter but although similar from the outside, the P.531 was a new airframe and benefitted from the arrival of the Blackburn Turmo free-turbine. The prototype first flew in 1958 and G-APNU was a purely aerodynamic prototype.

Verso: “New British helicopter has gas turbine engine. The new P.531 helicopter pictured shortly after takeoff. This aircraft is a comparatively small high-performance general-purpose machine which has been specially designed to take full advantage of the power and economy offered by a free gas turbine. It is manufactured by Saunders-Roe of Britain and is powered by a Blackburn Turmo free turbine which develops 425 shaft horse power. The helicopter can carry five persons, and is fitted with a lightweight air hoist for use in rescue work. External loads can be carried slung beneath the fuselage. A total load of 1,708 lb. can be carried including the passengers. It can be supplied fitted with either wheels, skids or floats, and can be used as an ambulance. Because of the small diameter of the rotor, the helicopter is particularly suitable for taking off from confined spaces, and the design of the rotor enables it to be operated from tropical or mountainous regions without loss of efficiency. Manufacturer: Saunders-Roe Aircraft Ltd., England. December 1958.”

16.5cm x 15.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 71074

Wasp trials on H.M.S. Nubian

With the incorporation of Saunders-Roe into the Westland company, the P531 was renamed the Wasp for naval use and XS463 was built at the Westland factory in Hayes. This Wasp was used in trials for flotation equipment, see the spherical container on the rear undercarriage, and the four-wheel castoring undercarriage which was finally adopted. Compare this undercarriage with the simpler one of the earlier P531.

20.2cm x 14.8cm Photograph


Catalogue number 100084

Wasp deck landing trials on H.M.S. Ashanti

Three Saro P.531-O/N prototypes went to the Royal Navy for extensive trials at sea and with different landing gear. This helicopter, XN334, is shown on H.M.S. Ashanti during trials in 1962 with suction/hover pad landing gear. During take-off at near all-up weight in January 1962, the wind dropped and the helicopter lost height with the forward port landing pad hitting the deck edge tipping it into the sea. The two crew were picked up and the helicopter sank. Later Wasps were equipped with flotation bags.

Verso: “Three P531-0s were built in 1958/59 and evaluated by the Royal Navy over an 18 month period. During this time different undercarriage layouts were evaluated and hundreds of landings performed aboard ships. The Westland Wasp was developed from the P531-0, entering service in 1963.”

15.1cm x 10.1cm Printed image


Catalogue number 100072

The Wasp suction/hover pad landing gear

This is another view of XN334 with the suction/hover pad landing gear. The idea of the experimental set-up was that under suction, the four pads would help to hold the helicopter on the flight deck and under hover, it would be easier to move the helicopter on the flight deck. In this photograph, it looks like the pioneering helicopter test pilot Johnny Morton sat to port.

Credit: Westland Aircraft Ltd.

20.3cm x 15.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 39090

Putting away the Wasp helicopter onboard

Facilities for carrying a Wasp were an afterthought in the Tribal class General Purpose frigates of the early 60s. The aft-most limbo fitting was removed and a hanger was installed, the helicopter landing on the roof, the forward half of which went down as a lift. The lightweight roof panels seen in this photograph cover the open half of the hanger.

Credit: Crown Copyright 1971

19.2cm x 15.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 100071

Take-off and landing trials of the Wasp

Note the starboard pylon to mount a Nord AS.12 wire-guided air-to-surface missile (this is sometimes mistakenly identified as a winch) and the gyro-stabilised sights mounted on the cabin roof above the port seat. The spherical container on the rear starboard undercarriage is a flotation chamber.

Credit: Westland Aircraft Ltd.

21.2cm x 15.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 31027

Missiles on a Westland Wasp

This ASV (Anti-surface vessel) Wasp is carrying two deadly-looking Nord AS.12 wire-guided air-to-surface missiles. Having no detection equipment, the helicopter was vectored to its target by a ship. Once again, it looks like the helicopter test pilot Johnny Morton is at the controls.

Credit: Westland Aircraft Ltd.

21.1cm x 15.6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 40179

The AS-12 replaced by the radar-guided AS-15 TT

The AS 15 TT was developed as a replacement for the AS 12 and was guided by radar. It is shown here installed on a French Navy Dauphin.

Verso: “MBDA missile systems, AS 15 TT Lightweight anti-ship weapon system” in French, English and Italian

Credit: Eurocopter/E.Raz/2000

17.8cm x 12.7cm Colour photograph


Catalogue number 39095

Anti-submarine torpedo on a Wasp

This is a photograph of Wasp HAS 1 XT434 of 829 Squadron with a single Mk 44 homing torpedo. The Wasp could alternatively mount one of the heavier Mk 46 torpedoes or two Mk44 depth charges. XT434 was on the Leander class frigate H.M.S. Aurora F10 from 1968 to 1971.

Credit: Crown Copyright (Royal Navy)

24.4cm x 19.1cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 29046

French deck landing trials with an Alouette II

The bay off Toulon serves as a background to the deck trials of a French Navy Alouette II. The helicopter seems to be carrying two torpedoes under the cabin and between the floats. There is also a harpoon arrestor between the torpedoes ready to hook onto the grid in the flight deck.

21.8cm x 15.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 13049

Putting away the Wessex helicopter on County-class destroyers

A Westland Wessex on the flight deck of H.M.S. Devonshire in 1966 prior to being stowed away in the hangar just aft on the second funnel. With the tail and rotor blades folded back, the helicopter would be man-handled along the port side of the deck forward to then be moved sideways into the hangar (see the three vertical panels).

Credit: Pavia

13.9cm x 8.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 33058

Flight deck and hangar of H.M.S. Norfolk

The flight deck and difficult route to the hangar can clearly be seen in this photograph of H.M.S. Norfolk, one can imagine what it must have been like when moving the nearly 4 tonnes of Westland Wessex in anything but a calm sea!

Credit: Crown Copyright (Royal Navy)

24.8cm x 19.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 31025

The Wessex of H.M.S. Fife

As an example of the deck handling problems on County class destroyers, the Westland Wessex XS149 was damaged when a folded main blade hit the superstructure while being man-handled from the hangar onto the flight deck. Here it is shown overflying the mother ship HMS Fife which was later refitted to operate a Westland Lynx helicopter.

Credit: Crown Copyright (Royal Navy)

24.5cm x 19.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 28015

Experimental hangar arrangement on the French ship La Galissonnière

The French frigate La Galissonnière had a folding hangar built into the roof of the Malafon missile room. Here an Alouette III is approaching the landing pad, there is a stiff brease blowing. Note the anchor grid on the landing pad.

15.9cm x 21.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 36104

Mechanism of the folding hangar, 1962

A system of hydraulic rams lifts up the two ends and the sides fold in to close the top of the hangar. La Galissonnière was an experimental ship but one may ask how this structure would resist rough weather in the Atlantic.

Verso: “Escorteur d'Escadre “La Galissonnière”. Opening the hangar to make the landing pad for the helicopter” in French

Credit: S.P.I.

17.8cm x 13cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 29046

Landing on

The helicopter is down and the hangar can be closed on La Galissonnière.

22cm x 15.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 31046

H.M.S. Blake converted to carry ASW helicopters

In the late 50s and early 60s, the growing Soviet submarine menace stimulated Western navies and the United States to enhance the deployment of anti-submarine helicopters and adapt existing ships or design new ones to operate the ASW helicopter flights. The Royal Navy decided to convert the 6-inch gunned Tiger-class cruisers to this new role. It was quite an expensive affair and the result was a most ugly after deck hangar and flight deck with a considerable overhang over the stern.

Credit: Crown Copyright (Royal Navy)

24.6cm x 19.1cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 52118

Harrier fighter landing on H.M.S. Blake, 1969

In 1969, the vertical take-off and landing Harrier fighter jet was used to evaluate the possibility of operating these jets from the converted helicopter and command ship H.M.S. Blake. Although such a capacity would have enhanced the operational role of H.M.S. Blake, the ship was outdated, expensive to operate and maintain so the project was abandoned.

Verso: “VTOL Fighter lands on HMS Blake. The Hawker Siddeley Harrier close support jet fighter landing on the flight deck of the cruiser HMS Blake during trials over the weekend 2nd/3rd August. These trials were the result of a directive by the Ministry of Defence for the MOD (Navy), to study the application of the Harrier for operations from ships in the mid-1970s. The aircraft was flown from Dunsfold airfield in Surrey by the Chief test pilot of Hawker Siddeley Aviation Limited (Dunsfold), Mr Hugh Merewether, to HMS Blake which was operating just south of the Isle of Wight. This was the first occasion that the Harrier had landed on a Royal Navy cruiser. HMS Blake (10,000 tons) has a flight deck 117 feet long by 56 feet at the widest point and normally carries a squadron of four Royal Naval Wessex mk3 helicopters. It will carry four Sea King helicopters when these aircraft come into front line service.”

Credit: Crown Copyright, Ministry of Defence (Navy), text Associated Press

19cm x 14.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 88 F6

Converting aircraft carriers to helicopter assault ships

Like many other navies, post-war aircraft carriers were converted to operate assault helicopters and from 1962, the French Navy Arromanches (ex-H.M.S. Colossus, commissioned 1944) was transformed to operate Sikorsky HSS1 helicopters built under licence by Sud-Est Aviation.

Verso: “BPAN Hyères, Service photographique” as blue stamp

39.8cm x 30cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 28024

Amphibious assault ships: U.S.S. Inchon

The U.S.S. Inchon LPH-12 was one of a series of Iwo-Jima class amphibious assault ships that were commissioned in the 1960s reflecting the American strategy of interventions on foreign coasts, for example, this ship was involved in the multi-nation landing in Beirut, Lebanon in 1982. On deck we can see examples of most types of helicopter used by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. Amongst them are the Bell UH-1 Iroquois (Huey), Boeing CH-46 Sea Knights and the Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion.

Recto: “5277/87 R5 ANF/16F – 15 May -200mm x2 – 500ft. US – LPH 12 – Inchon CL Iwo Jima – Baie de Santa Maria Corse – Stoppé”

Credit: A.N.F./16F

24.1cm x 17.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 67043

The helicopter complement of U.S.S. Inchon

Here we can see the large rear-loading door of two Sea Stallions on the Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship U.S.S. Inchon. Either side of the Sea Stallions, one of which has the tail folded back, are two Chinook helicopters and a Bell Huey. Tail code EM is that of a squadron which supports Fleet Marine Forces.

14cm x 9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 67042

The Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion

The Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion was designed to a U.S. Marine Corps requirement for a large, heavy-lift helicopter to carry field artillery and troops in amphibious assaults. This may be U.S.S. Guam.

10.1cm x 5.8cm Colour print


Catalogue number 92041

Helicopters on a French amphibious assault ship

A Super Frelon is landing on the mobile landing deck of an Ouragan-class landing platform docking ship of the French Navy whilst an Alouette II is spotted forward. The helicopter has always been a major component of the multi-purpose role of this type of ship.

11.8cm x 9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 27021

The Sovier Kiev, a multi-purpose carrier/cruiser

The Kiev was a heavy aircraft cruiser commissioned in 1975. It was a hybrid warship capable to carry out several missions – naval force command, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, area air defence etc. It had a compliment of 20 Kamov Ka-25 or Ka-27 ASW helicopters and 12 Yak-38M V.T.O.L. fighter aircraft.

Recto: "R 87 N1 ANF 16F 19 Jan 200mm x2 300ft CVSG - UR 051 Kiev CL-Kiev - Hammamet 1030Z DR LBR"

Credit: A.N.F 16F

22.2cm x 22.2cm Photograph


Catalogue number 72108

Kamov helicopters and Yak fighters on the Soviet ship Kiev

Left to right, two Yaks, a Kamov Ka-27 with nose radar dome then a Kamov Ka-25. The Kamov helicopters had counter-rotating rotors so a tail rotor was not necessary making the Kamov compact and adapted to the limited hanger space of a carrier. Poor Kiev looks rather in a bad state!

Credit: Probably A.N.F. 16F

36mm Colour slide (from a series of 22 slides of Kiev)


Catalogue number 27021 (detail)

Detail of Yaks and Kamov helicopters on Kiev

This is detail from a larger photograph of Kiev and shows Yaks and Kamov helicopters on the flight deck.

Recto: "R 87 N 1 ANF/16F 14 Jun 200mm x2 / 50ft UR CVSG 051 Kiev CL Kiev 4100N - 01132W 360/7 1040Z DR KPC"

22.6cm x 22.8cm Photograph


Catalogue number 26029

Detail of Yaks and Kamov helicopters on Kiev

The Moskva class helicopter carriers Leningrad and Moskva were probable built in response to the appearance of American nuclear submarines armed with the Polaris A1 missile (range 1,853 km), the Russian name is translated as “anti-submarine cruiser” and they carried 14 Kamov Ka-25 “Hormone” helicopters. ASW helicopters gave an extended submarine detection zone whilst the ship remained under the protection of shore-based aircraft. However, by the time the Moskva class ships were commissioned and deployed, the American nuclear submarines were carrying the Polaris A3 missile with a range of over 4,631 km. Russian shore-based aircraft could no longer provide the air cover for the ASW activities of these ships. This photgraph shows the Leningrad at anchor in Sollum in 1989. The spotting points can be seen on the flight deck as well as an open lift, the second lift is just aft of the spot number 2 (see four white lines).

Recto: “R89 R5 ANF/16F 11 May 200mm x2 500ft CVG – UR – 109 Leningrad cl Moskva mouillage Sollum”

22.6cm x 22.7cm Photograph


Catalogue number 26029

The flight deck of Leningrad

The massive superstructure and the immense flight deck with an open stern made these ships poor performers in heavy weather. All anti-submarine weapons were forward of the superstructure. When the Moskva-class appeared in the Mediterranean Sea, Western analysts though that they were intended for amphibious warfare but in fact they exercised an ASW function.

Recto: "R 89 N1 ANF/16F 11 May 200mm x2 / 500ft CVG UR 109 Leningrad CL Moskva 0510 DR GRD"

22.7cm x 22.8cm Photograph


Catalogue number 25034

The Sikorsky Sea King "Hunter/Killer"

Initially, two helicopters, one “hunter” the other “killer” were used in ASW but as the performance of turbines increased, it became possible to combine the two roles in the same helicopter. The Sikorsky Sea King carried both a dipping sonar and 840lb of anti-submarine weapons with an all-weather operations capacity. The hull was watertight with stabilizing floats. This Sea King was on board the U.S.S. Kennedy.

Credit: Official U.S. Navy photograph

24cm x 20.3cm Colour print


Catalogue number 31028

Westland to build the Sea King under licence

XV370 was part of the first batch of Sikorsky SH-3D helicopters that were supplied to Westland Aircraft Ltd. as trials and copy examples in 1966. Here it is seen operating a dipper sonar array.

24.6cm x 19.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 63040

The Sea King in replenishment at sea

The heavy lift capacity of the Westland Sea King – just over 3 tonnes – made it suitable for replenishment at sea between the store ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and Royal Navy warships.

24cm x 18cm Photograph

Catalogue number U.S.S. Truman series

The Sikorsky SH-60 Sea Hawk

The Sikorsky Sea Hawk was primarily an antisubmarine helicopter seen here on U.S.S. Truman in 2008. To reduce the space taken up in the hangar note how the tail folds back and the four blades are drawn back over the fuselage and held in place with strops. Chains hold the helicopter onto the deck.

Credit: Copyright John Seal

Colour photograph