XR517 first flew in January 1964 and was issued to 18 Squadron and coded G. In 1968 it was transferred to 72 Squadron and from 1971 until 1992 was based at RAF Aldergrove initially carrying the code AN.
After its service in Northern Ireland it returned to England with
60 Squadron at RAF Benson. It was acquired by the UAS in 2004 from Dick Everett of Shoreham and trucked from there to our original home at Langford Lodge.
For 32 years, from 1969, Wessex helicopters of 72 Squadron were based in Northern Ireland in the role of assisting the civil power and supporting the security forces. during the "Troubles".
In addition, it had a search and rescue function. It could carry 16 fully-armed troops or lift a 4-ton under-slung load.
The Westland Wessex is a British turbine-powered version of the Sikorsky S-58 "Choctaw", developed under license by Westland Aircraft (later Westland Helicopters), initially for the Royal Navy, and later for the Royal Air Force.
The Wessex was built at Westland's factory at Yeovil in Somerset.
An American-built Sikorsky HSS-1 was shipped to Westland in 1956 to act as a pattern aircraft. It was re-engined with a Napier Gazelle turboshaft engine, and first flew in that configuration on the 17 May 1957.
The first Westland-built Wessex XL727, a Wessex HAS.1 first flew on 20 June 1958, and they entered anti-submarine duties in 1961 with the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. The Royal Navy's anti-submarine examples (HAS Mk.1, HAS Mk.3) also used the Gazelle engine.
The design was adapted in the early 1960s for the RAF, and later Royal Marines, to become a general-purpose helicopter capable of troop-carrying, air ambulance and ground support roles. In contrast with the HAS.1, it used twin Bristol Siddeley Gnome engines. These marks (HC.2, HCC.4, HU.5) had a single large exhaust on each side of the nose, the Gazelle-powered examples having a pair of smaller exhausts on either side.