Westland Wessex HAS Mk.3


Registration: XM328
Country of origin: UK
Built: Yeovil, England, 1963
Manufacturer: Westland Helicopters
Constructor's Number: WA9
Engines: One 1600shp Napier Gazelle 161 turboshaft engine
Type: Anti-submarine warfare helicopter

Note: This Wessex served aboard ships during the Icelandic 'Cod War', and on HMS Antrim in the South Atlantic following the Falklands Crisis.

Details: The Wessex HAS MK.3 followed on from the earlier Mk.1 version in 1965, introducing an advanced Louis Newmark duplex auto-hover flight control system, which allowed the pilot to confidently hover over the sea at night and in bad visibility without having to reference a visual horizon. The Mk3 also introduced a new search radar in a dorsal dome causing it to be nick-named the 'Camel', as well as improved dunking sonar equipment and an uprated Napier Gazelle engine providing more power in the hover and hot/high situations. All but three prototype HAS Mk.3 were converted from production Mk.1 Wessex.

XM328 was originally an early Wessex Mk1, first flown at Yeovil in March 1960 and used for early trials including development of an autopilot and other installations planned for the later Mk3. In June 1966 it returned to the factory for full HAS Mk3 conversion, flying again on 21st February 1968 and being delivered to No.737 Squadron at RNAS Portland in July 1968. Over the next several years it also served aboard HMS Norfolk, HMS Glamorgan and HMS Antrim (during the Icelandic 'Cod Wars'). It also spent time in Northern Ireland on surveillance duties in support of ant-terrorism activities.

The Falklands Crisis in April 1982 saw XM328 allocated as a reserve aircraft and in late May 1982 it was repainted dark grey and coded 406/AN to replace sister aircraft XP142 which had been severely damaged whilst operating from HMS Antrim in San Carlos Water. Meanwhile the vessel returned to the UK at the end of the conflict but redeployed with XM328 in November 1982. The aircraft remained with the ship in the South Atlantic until it returned to the UK in April 1983.

XM328 was delivered direct to NASU Yeovilton for overhaul and returned to No 737 Sqdn at Portland on 12 September, coded O6/AN. It remained at Portland until 19 January 1984 when it carried out the last official flight of a Wessex HAS Mk.3 and was delivered to RNAY Wroughton for storage.

On 22 April 1985, it was allocated to the School of Flight Deck Operations (SFDO) at RNAS Culdrose, carrying the nickname 'The Sow' and allocated the Ground Instruction Serial A2727 (later changed to A2644) arriving there on 30 April, being finally retired and acquired by The Helicopter Museum in May 2004. Restoration to display standard was completed in 2016. Total flying hours in service 4523.10