The Wasp was a light anti-submarine helicopter developed by the now-defunct Westland company.
Developed from the Saro P.531 the Wasp first flew in October of 1962. It was introduced in 1963 and us a result of the same program that gave us the Westland Scout. Both of these helicopters are based on the Saunders-Roe Skeeter.
Helicopters such as the Wasp became an ever-greater need as submarine technology began to accelerate and play a much more prominent role in global warfare. Submarines were becoming faster and thanks to better energy technologies could range further than ever. Naval ships of the day could not strike submarines at the range where they themselves became vulnerable to a torpedo strike, so an urgent countermeasure was needed.
Based on the P.531 prototype the Wasp was to be a Scout converted for naval use. In fact, originally it would have been called the “Sea Scout”. The differences are mainly in design details and not major features, so at first glance or at a distance they can be confused for one another.
A 4-wheeled castering undercarriages is unique to the Wasp and an easy way to distinguish it. This design let the helicopter be moved around easily on a pitched and tolling deck. Another interesting and innovative idea was the ability to generate negative pitch. The wasp could turn it’s main-rotor thrust upwards after landing, gluing it to the deck until more permanent fastenings could be attached. Both the main rotor and tail boom were foldable, making it an even better shipboard craft.
The Wasp had a crew of two and amazingly could land on a frigate, but still carry two homing torpedoes. It could even do light cargo duties with an underslung load hook and a winch. This made it useful for short range transport missions and casualty evacuation.
The Wasp was a fairly successful helicopter with about 133 units built. Apart from the Royal Navy in Britain, it found a home in Brazil, the Netherlands, Indonesia, Maylaysia, New Zealand and South Africa. The Royal Malaysian Navy were the last to retire the Wasp in the year 2003.