Westland Whirlwind (helicopter)

This article is about the post-Second World War helicopter. For the wartime fighter aircraft built by the same company, see Westland Whirlwind (fighter).
A Royal Air Force Whirlwind HAR.10 of the RAF Search and Rescue Force
Role Helicopter
National origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer Westland Aircraft
First flight August 1953
Introduction 1954
Primary users Royal Navy
Royal Air Force
Produced 1953–1966
Number built 360+
Developed from Sikorsky H-19

The Westland Whirlwind helicopter was a British licence-built version of the U.S. Sikorsky S-55/H-19 Chickasaw. It primarily served with the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm in anti-submarine and search and rescue roles.

Design and development

In 1950, Westland Aircraft, already building the American Sikorsky S-51 under license as the Westland Dragonfly, purchased the rights to manufacture and sell Sikorsky's larger Sikorsky S-55 helicopter. While a Sikorsky-built pattern aircraft was flown by Westland in June 1951, converting the design to meet British standards (including the provision of a revised main-rotor gearbox), was time consuming,[1] and the first prototype British aircraft, registered G-AMJT, powered by the 600 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340-40 Wasp did not fly until August 1953.[2] This was followed by ten Whirlwind HAR.1s, which entered service shortly afterwards. They served in non-combat roles, including search and rescue and communications functions. The HAR.3 had a larger 700 hp Wright R-1300-3 Cyclone 7 engine.

The performance of early versions was limited by the power of the American Wasp or Cyclone engines, and in 1955, the HAR.5, powered by an uprated engine, the Alvis Leonides Major, flew for the first time.[3] This was followed by the similarly powered HAS.7, which became the first British helicopter designed for anti-submarine warfare in the front-line when it entered service in 1957. It could either be equipped with a dipping Sonar for submarine detection or carry a torpedo, but could not carry both simultaneously, so sonar equipped "Hunters" were used to direct torpedo armed "Killers".[4] The HAS.7 was powered by a 750 hp (560 kW) Alvis Leonides Major 755/1 radial engine. It had a hovering ceiling at 9,400 ft (2,900 m) and a range of 334 miles at 86 mph. In 1960 Westland introduced a Whirlwind powered by the 1,000 hp Bristol Siddeley Gnome turboshaft, the greater power giving much improved performance over the earlier piston-engined variants. The Gnome featured an early computer controlled fuel system that removed variations in engine power and made for much easier handling by the pilot.

Later in their service lives, some HAS.7s were converted to use the Gnome turboshaft engine, as the HAR.9.

After entering service with the Royal Navy, the Whirlwind came to be used by the British Army and Royal Air Force. More than 400 Whirlwinds were built, of which nearly 100 were exported to foreign customers. The French Navy received 37 Whirlwind HAR.2 between 1954 and 1957.[5]

Whirlwinds, painted in overall yellow, were used by the RAF Search and Rescue Force for rescuing people in distress around the coast of the UK, before later being replaced/supplemented by first the Westland Wessex and later, the Westland Sea King.

Operational service

848 Naval Air Squadron of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm was the first squadron to HAR.1's which replaced the Sikorsky built HAR.21's for utility and Search and Rescue from July 1954.


Whirlwind Series 1 demonstrator fitted with P&W R-1340 in 1955
Whirlwind of the Royal Navy
Whirlwind HAS.7 of the Empire Test Pilots' School
Whirlwind HCC.12 of the Royal Flight
WS-55 Series 1 
44 built; American engines (Pratt & Whitney Wasp R-1340-40), transport helicopters for military and civilian use
WS-55 Series 2 
19 built; Alvis engines (Alvis Leonides Major 755), civilian use
WS-55 Series 3 
5 built; Gnome turboshaft (Bristol Siddeley Gnome 101), civilian use
10 built; RN service; Search and rescue
33 built; RAF service from 1955
RAF service
25 built; RN service; Wright Cyclone engine
24 built; Improved HAR.2 for hot and high conditions, RAF service
3 built; Alvis Leonides Major engine and a 3 degree droop of the tail boom for increased main rotor clearance; RN service
40 built; RN duties - 6 converted to HAR.9's
89 built; RN anti-submarine duties - 1 torpedo; 12 used as Royal Marine transports, 6 converted to HAR.9's
2 built; Royal Flight transport, VVIP later converted to HAR.10's
12 conversions of HAS.7 with a Bristol Siddeley Gnome gas turbine replacing the Leonides Major engine, RN service
RAF service
68 built; powered by a Bristol Siddeley Gnome gas turbine, RAF service, transport and air-sea rescue
2 built; Royal Flight,

The model numbers for the US-built evaluation models were

10 built; rescue. Equivalent to US Marine HRS-2.[6]
15 built; anti-submarine. Equivalent to HO4S-3.[6]


Military operators











 United Kingdom

XJ726 - HAR 10 used by the Royal Air Force
XK936 - HAS 7 used by the Royal Navy


Civil Operators

 United Kingdom


Over 69[25] aircraft remain in private ownership, dumped or in museums including the RAF Museum and the Fleet Air Arm Museum as well as being the current gate guardian at RAF Odiham.

Specifications (Whirlwind HAS.7)

Data from Westland Aircraft since 1915 [27]

General characteristics



See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era



  1. James 1991, pp.320—321.
  2. James 1991, p.322.
  3. James 1991, p.329.
  4. James 1991, p.330.
  5. 1 2 James 1991, p. 336.
  6. 1 2 Thetford 1978, p.423.
  7. "FlightGlobal World Helicopter Market - 1968". flightglobal.com. July 1968. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  8. "Westland-WS-55-Whirlwind". Demand media. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  9. 1 2 "FlightGlobal World Helicopter Market - Page 49". flightglobal.com. July 1968. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  10. "Flight Global - 1966". flightglobal.com. July 1966. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  11. "Westland Whirlwind HAR3, N-7010, Brazilian Navy". abpic.co.uk. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  12. 1 2 3 "World Helicopter Market". Flight International. Vol. 94 no. 3096. 11 July 1968. p. 52.
  13. "FlightGlobal World Helicopter Market - 1968". flightglobal.com. July 1968. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  14. "World Helicopter Market". Flight International. Vol. 94 no. 3096. 11 July 1968. p. 54.
  15. Air International September 1988, p.136.
  16. "Westland Whirlwind HAR10 Helicoptor". MooreAircraft.com. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Jefford 1988, p. 140.
  18. "A Royal Navy Westland Whirlwind helicopter flies alongside the south coast of England.". BBC. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  19. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Sturtivant, Ballance 1994, p. 363.
  20. "World Helicopter Market". Flight International. Vol. 94 no. 3096. 11 July 1968. p. 60.
  21. "Yugoslavian Westland-WS-55-Whirlwind". Demand media. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  22. James 1991, p. 327.
  23. "Bristow Helicopters Westland-WS-55". Demand media. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
  24. "Westland WS-55 Series 3, G-AODA/EP-HAC/9Y-TDA, at The Helicopter Museum". helicoptermuseum.co.uk. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  25. "Demobbed - Out of Service British Military Aircraft - Westland Whirlwind". demobbed.org.uk. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  26. Tayfusion. "Aircraft Engineering Training Scotland by Air Service Training UK". web.archive.org. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  27. James 1991, pp.336—338.
  28. Thetford 1978, p.352.


  • James, Derek M. Westland Aircraft since 1915. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 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. 
  • Thetford, Owen. British Naval Aircraft since 1912. London:Putnam, 1978. ISBN 0-370-30021-1.
  • "Wings Over the Gulf: The Qatari Emiri Air Force". Air International, September 1988, Vol. 35, No. 3. pp. 135–144.
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