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The Westland Scout

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  • The Westland Scout

    The Westland Scout was developed from the Saunders-Roe P531 which first flew on 20th July 1958 and was powered by a Blackburn Turmo 603 engine. My late godfather was a test pilot on this aircraft, with both the A&AEE Boscombe Down and with Ferranti Aircraft Systems.

    The production Scout was fitted with a Bristol Siddeley Nimbus (later Rolls-Royce Nimbus) 101 engine although test flights had utilised both the Bristol Siddeley and a De Havilland Gnome H1000. The Scout’s layout involved two front seats and a three-seat rear bench although this could be replaced with a four-seat bench when fitted with modified rear doors. In the casevac role it carried two stretchers internally and two externally in panniers. Skid landing gear was standard.

    The type entered service with the Army Air Corps in 1963 and was a replacement for the Westland Sioux (Bell 47) which in turn had replaced the Saunders-Roe Skeeter. The Scout was primarily used as a multi-role tactical aircraft with duties such as observation, liaison, training and search and rescue.

    When armoured as a light attack helicopter it carried either two skid-mounted forward-firing
    (L8A1 GPMG) machine gun packs or a single pintle-mounted machine gun in the rear cabin. The pintle mount was available in both port and starboard mountings. The gun-packs, which were both aimed at a pre-set convergence angle, carried 200 rounds of ammunition and were mounted on a tubular spar that was fixed between the front and rear undercarriage legs. Tests were also carried out with a Browning M2, also mounted in the rear cabin.

    Gun Sight

    In the anti-tank role the Scout could carry four wire-guided missiles (the Nord SS11). These missiles had a range of around 6,000 metres but, to employ this weapon, some form of optical magnification had to be used so that the operator could identify the target as well as the missile flare. For this purpose the Army used the Avimo-Ferranti AF120. This unit had a x2.5 and x10 magnification and employed Ferranti’s considerable expertise in gyro-stabilisation to allow the weapons officer to deliver track and direct missile guidance. The lower part of the AF120 could be retracted into its housing while not is use and which gave this device a periscope-like ‘feel’ to it. The sighting head used a gyro-stabilised mirror and was enclosed in a double-skin casing outside the canopy and the entire system mounted on a tubular sub-frame which employed anti-vibration mountings. My godfather was involved in the weapons testing flights for the AF120 and which took place at the Castlemartin range in Pembrokeshire, South Wales.

    Northern Ireland

    In Northern Ireland the Scout pioneered the use of the Heli-Tele aerial surveillance system, having a gyro-stabilised Marconi unit fitted in the rear cabin. The Heli-Tele unit weighed some 700 lb (320 kg), although later developments reduced this weight significantly. In this role the rear cabin doors and seats were removed and four troops sat in the rear cabin with their feet resting on the skids. Operating with two aircraft in unison, this allowed an eight man patrol to be quickly inserted into an area and set-up snap Vehicle Check Points (VCPs) when necessary.

    Up until 1973, the standard tail rotor colour scheme for the Scout were bands of red and white. On 14 September 1973 a soldier died during training at Gosford Castle, Armagh, after coming into contact with the tail rotor blades whilst the aircraft was on the ground. Following this accident the tail rotor blade colour scheme was changed to the distinctive black and white bands.

    Because of the specialist nature of operations in Northern Ireland, a particularly important piece of role equipment was introduced in the form of the 'Nightsun' 3.5 million candle power searchlight. Operations at night were greatly enhanced with the introduction of Night Vision Goggles (NVGs), although these missions could still be hazardous. This was evident on the night of 2nd December 1978 when the pilot of XW614, 659 Sqn, became disorientated during a sortie and crashed into Lough Ross, killing the two crew. XW614 was the last of five Scouts written off during operations in the Province.


    At the start of “Operation Corporate” six Scouts from 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron were operating alongside three machines from No. 656 Squadron AAC, and when 5 Infantry Brigade landed they were joined by another three Scouts from 656 Squadron.

    During the Falklands conflict the Scout was engaged in CASEVAC, re-supply and Special Forces insertion roles. One aircraft, XT629, was one of two Scouts of B Flight 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron, that was attacked by two FMA IA 58 Pucarás (the only Argentine air-to-air victory in the war) of Grupo 3 near Camilla Creek House, North of Goose Green. XT629 was hit by cannon fire and crashed, killing the pilot and severing the leg of the crewman, who was thrown clear of the wreckage on impact. The second Scout evaded the Pucarás and later returned to the site to CASEVAC the survivor.

    Another Scout, XR628, of 656 Sqn AAC, suffered a main rotor gearbox failure whilst in a low hover over MacPhee Pond, 8th June 1982. XR628 had taken cover as two pairs of A-4 Skyhawks from Grupo 5 approached, these aircraft later attacked the RFA LSLs Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram at Bluff Cove. Once the threat had passed and the pilot began to climb away, the main gearbox failed at the main input drive and the aircraft made a forced landing at the lakeside in around four feet of water. The two crew were picked up by another 656 Sqn Scout piloted by Capt. J G Greenhalgh later that day. The aircraft was eventually recovered and airlifted to Fitzroy by Sea King on 11th June, but was subsequently written off on its return to the UK. Following research at the National Archive, Kew, it has been determined that XR628 was the same aircraft that was shot down, 26th May 1964, carrying 3 Para CO Lt. Col. Farrar-Hockley.

    Scouts armed with SS11 anti-tank missiles gained combat experience during the Falklands campaign, notably on 14th June 1982 when an Argentine 105 mm Pack Howitzer battery dug in to the West of Stanley Racecourse was firing at the Scots Guards as they approached Mount Tumbledown. As the guns were out of range of the Milan ATGWs of nearby 2 Para, their 2IC, Major Chris Keeble, contacted Capt. J G Greenhalgh of 656 Sqn AAC on the radio and requested a HELARM using SS11 missiles to attack on them. As he was engaged in ammunition re-supply, his Scout was not fitted with missile booms. This was in order to reduce weight and increase the aircraft lift capability. Capt. Greenhalgh then returned to Estancia House, where his aircraft was refuelled, fitted out, and armed with four missiles in 20 minutes with the rotors still turning. An ‘O’ group was then held with the crews of two Scouts of 3 CBAS and Capt. Greenhalgh took off on a reconnaissance mission, while the other aircraft were fitted out and readied. Within 20 minutes he had located the target and carried out a detailed recce of the area. He fired two missiles at the enemy positions and then returned to a pre-arranged RV to meet up and guide in the other two Scouts. The three aircraft, positioned 100 metres apart, then fired a total of ten missiles (nine missiles hit, one failed) from the ridge overlooking the Argentine positions 3000m away and succeeded in hitting the howitzers, nearby bunkers, an ammunition dump and the command post. The Argentine troops returned mortar fire, a round landing directly in front of Capt. Greenhalgh’s Scout.

    Army Air Corps Westland Scout AH1 XP905 (armed with four Nord SS11's) as seen at Middle Wallop on 11th July 1986 (Photo: Robin Walker)

    Army Scout at Bessbrook Mill, County Armagh

    The Avimo-Ferranti AF120 gun sight for the Scout

    Internal 'periscope' arrangement for the AF120

    Casualties being transferred to a Westland Scout during the Falklands War in 1982

    Army Scout AH1 XP900

  • #2
    Got 870 hours on those beasts - happy days.

    Last edited by Phil Croucher; 5th February 2014, 21:01.


    • #3
      I can still hear the Scout in my head from when I was little, wonderful sound

      Here's some photos taken by my late Father from when he was on board the RFA Sir Galahad on the way to Australia from Malaya in the late 1960's

      Here a Scout is being lifted out and off the ship onto the dock at Rockhampton in Australia

      An engine change in Australia

      This one was taken at the school in Kluang, Malaya

      The spec on how to paint your tail rotor. :-)

      Here's a couple of interesting shots, the first a Scout fitted with a .5 Browning machine gun while on trials but never used operationally, unless you know different, please tell if you do.

      Now this picture has had me baffled for a number of years, does anyone know what type of missiles are fitted?

      All the best


      • #4
        Originally posted by Phil Croucher View Post
        Got 870 hours on those beasts - happy days.
        It must have been wonderful indeed!

        Steve: Those are some great photos from your Father!

        Do you know how long he spent in Malaya?

        Regarding Scout tail-rotors; I think the first tail-rotors were red with a white stripe and then became a combination of red, black and white before adopting the black and white scheme depicted in your 'instructional'.

        The P531

        The P531 was the aircraft my godfather flew as test pilot along with several others from 'Bristol Division' which had merged with Saunders-Roe (Saro) in what was to become Westland.

        Design of the P531 was started in November 1957 as a private venture improvement of the company's earlier Skeeter. The first prototypes were powered by a derated 325 shp Blackburn Turbomeca Turmo 600, a free turbine engine allowing clutchless transmission. The P531 first flew on the 20 July 1958. Three more P531-0's followed and were delivered to the Royal Navy/Fleet Air Arm for trials. Following evaluation by the Navy a batch of 30 aircraft were ordered as the Westland Wasp.

        Two militiarised P531-2's were completed in 1959, powered by the Blackburn Nimbus and the De Havilland Gnome H1000 free-turbine engines, both derated to 635 hp (once transmission tests had proved such power to be acceptable). Like the Turmo installation, these engines were mounted, uncowled behind the cabin for easy servicing. There were aerodynamic shape revisions and a floor extension to allow six, rather than five seats. The vision was improved with perspex panels in the doors, fuel capacity was increased and all-metal rotors introduced. These modifications increased gross weight by 1,200 lb (544 kg).

        Saro had an order for eight pre-production aircraft from the Army Air Corps for evaluation and trials; these would have been known as the Saro Sprite, but the company was taken over by Westland and the aircraft became the first Scout AH1's. Another P531-2 was built for evaluation by the Indian government but following a lack of interest was re-worked as standard Scout for the Army Air Corps.

        The second prototype P531 Mk1 G-APNV at Farnborough in September 1958

        G-APNV at Farnborough in 1958

        G-APNV at Farnborough in 1958

        A Westland advert for the P531 dated 23rd September 1960 as it appeared in Flight International

        Please note (as per the above) that Saunders-Roe originally named the Scout the 'Sprite' so .. when I affectionately refer to Scouts as 'Sprouts' .. its not a million miles away from what it was almost called!


        • #5
          The Sir Galahad! I used to load that thing before I started flying - I was a Movement Controller back then.



          • #6
            Hi Savoia,
            We were in Malaya between 2nd Dec 67 to 2nd May 70, he was with 75 Aircraft Workshops in Kluang and we lived in Sunrise Park. I still can't hear a Pipe Band without thinking about the Gurkha's practicing on our school field.



            • #7
              Originally posted by Steve View Post
              I still can't hear a Pipe Band without thinking about the Gurkha's practicing on our school field.
              Ah well, this is for you then!

              Other 'interesting' cross-cultural exports include (to this day) several South African regiments who wear the kilt on ceremonial parades and, in times past, the deplorable Idi Amin who had one Ugandan regiment 'kilted-up' in order to satisfy his admiration for all things Scottish.

              As this is a Vera Lynn photograph there's not much I can say about it.

              Was wondering though what the letters on the nose of many Army Scouts designated?


              • #8
                That video clip takes me back a bit, the sky always seemed so much bigger than here in the UK.
                Regarding the letter on the nose of the Scout, each Squadron would letter its aircraft so it could tell one from the other as the a/c serial could be hard to spot especially as it was only on the tail boom, the letter was often repeated on the fuselage sides as well.

                The Scout with the P on the nose could be Royal Marines as it has that thing to the right of the pitot tube which you see on Royal Navy Wasp's.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Steve View Post
                  .. the letter was often repeated on the fuselage sides as well.
                  Yes, so I've noticed.

                  Do you happen to know if there was any 'method' as to how these letters were chosen?

                  I also saw that on some of your photos the aircraft were carrying the tri-colour tail-flash which seemed to be popular (I think across all the services) in the 60's and 70's.

                  More P531 ..

                  Saunders-Roe P531 second prototype G-APNV (Photo: Westland Archives)

                  A further prototype of the Saro P531 G-APVM as seen at the SBAC Show at Farnborough on 12th September 1959 (Photo: NA Archives)


                  • #10

                    Westland P531-2 G-APVM as seen at RAF Gaydon on 17th September 1960 (Photo: Peter Clarke)

                    The MkII prototype P531 was converted to pre-production Scout AH1 which became XR493 (below) and, so we are told, is apparently preserved in Oman.

                    "VM" was, to the best of my knowledge, the first Scout prototype fitted with the Gnome H-1000 engine (derated to 685shp) as opposed to the Blackburn A129 (later to become Nimbus) used in her sister-ship prototype No.3 G-APVL.

                    Our great thanks to Peter Clarke for his contribution of this photo.

                    The very first British Army Westland Scout XR493. This is a Vera Lynn photograph


                    • #11

                      Britten-Norman's Westland Scout AH1 G-BXRS (ex XW613) as seen at RAF Northolt on 8th June 2008 (Photo: Mark Kwiatkowski)

                      Some Scout observations:

                      Firstly, I've noticed that on a large number of Scouts the vertical join which attaches the skid cross-tubes to the skids, was not painted. Was there a specific reason for this?

                      Secondly, does anyone know the purpose of the (what seem to be) weights mounted at the front of the skids?

                      And finally, one sees that the Navy boys managed to attach a 'Fly Navy' decal to the Scout's nose perspex!

                      Didn't someone from Cornwall once affix a 'Fly Navy' sticker amidst the roundel of a RAF Whirlwind Mk10 at the British Helicopter Championships in the late 70's!


                      • Fene Strong
                        Fene Strong commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Hi, it has been quite a few years since i worked on Scouts but i think the reason for not being painted was for ease checking for cracks, so you didn't have to remove the paint for regular penetrant dye testing, these were common areas of cracks. Was also a good contact point for static discharge prior to connecting underslung loads.

                      • Savoia
                        Savoia commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Grazie FS - Lovely to eventually find out the answers to these queries, many thanks!

                    • #12
                      Hi Savoia,
                      I'm not sure about your first question but the second I can answer, the weights on the front of the skids were to keep the centre of balance in tolerance for when the SS.11 missile system was fitted.

                      ps, The tri-colour National tail markings were dropped when the AAC went over to the smaller low-viz roundels.


                      • #13
                        Steve, many thanks!

                        Army Westland Scouts over the Alton Barnes White Horse in Wiltshire


                        • #14
                          Always loved this photo, don't know who took it but it looks late 1960's going by the uniforms.

                          Attached Files


                          • #15
                            Its a nice shot for sure!

                            Word is that XR635 now resides at the Midland Air Museum, Baginton.


                            • #16
                              Hallo Scout lovers ... Like most pilots, I have an especially soft spot for the lovely old war horse. Sadly I was not able to fly one in my Royal Air Force days, but that was put right a few years back when I was invited to fly both the Scout, (G-NOTY) and Doctor Terry Martin's beautiful Wasp version. The task was arranged by what was then the LOOP aviation newspaper so I could submit a 'write-up' for publication. The resultant article appeared around 2006 or 2007 I seem to remember, but brain cells! etc.

                              I remember the type so well, as when meeting a certain Rob Copplestone at Thuxton alongside my young son who had just secured his PPL at age 17. Dennis Junior certainly had an aptitude for rotary flying and by the time his PPL (H) was issued, he already had some 200 hours in his log book having officially trained since 14. He did actually manage a solo flight at Redhill at some earlier point which may have broken an age world record, but I'll make those details public when I think I'm about to fall off my perch!

                              Dear Mr Copplestone actually offered my son his first flying job as a safety pilot for the purchaser of the G-NOTY machine. Dennis Junior couldn't accept though as he was studying for his entrance to University (sadly never to happen).

                              As I've mentioned on another thread, I'm always available for our newer pilots for advice where I may have some expertise.
                              I'll ask the mod to post a picture of the Thruxton occasion.

                              Safe flying to all. Dennis Kenyon.


                              • #17
                                Some Scout and Wasp images posted on behalf of Denissimo!

                                Westland Scout (cn F9630) G-NOTY as flown by Denissimo

                                Westland Scout (cn F9740) G-BXRR

                                L-R: Denissimo, Blades Editor Dave Calderwood and photographer Dave Spurdens with Terry Martin's Westland Wasp

                                Dr. Terry Martin and Wasp 430

                                Westland Wasp panel

                                All photos from Dennis Kenyon's Personal Collection.


                                • #18
                                  Scout Landing

                                  Scout videos are fairly rare so I appreciated happening upon this clip.

                                  No soundtrack although one can hear some faint commentary in the background, though unrelated to the clip.


                                  • #19

                                    Westland Scout attached to 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron landing on HMS Hermes off the coast of northern Norway on 1st March 1970


                                    • Warty
                                      Warty commented
                                      Editing a comment
                                      Caption needs correcting - I know, I was that soldier ( I took the photograph. ) It was the end of Excercise Clockwork 1979 and I got back to Plymouth on 23 March.

                                    • Warty
                                      Warty commented
                                      Editing a comment
                                      it was about a four day trip home in appalling weather.

                                  • #20

                                    Army Air Corps Westland Scout, from 660 Squadron, landing at Ping-Chau Island (Hong Kong), on excercise from RAF Sek Kong c. late 70's or early 80's


                                    • Warty
                                      Warty commented
                                      Editing a comment
                                      Another of my photographs ... 1983, probably September but possibly August

                                    • Warty
                                      Warty commented
                                      Editing a comment
                                      PS: I am not getting at anybody here, I released these to the public domain so anyone can do what they want with them. Just trying to get things as accurate as possible

                                    • Savoia
                                      Savoia commented
                                      Editing a comment
                                      Great stuff and thank you for these wonderful photos which are fantastic. When and wherever possible I try to credit the photographers but .. this information is not always available and among those of us who collect aviation images there are countless thousands of shots which are exchanged between collectors which have little or no information and which I personally refer to as 'Vera Lynn' photographs!

                                  • #21

                                    Army Air Corps Westland Scout XV121 (cn F9696) as seen landing at Middle Wallop on 19th July 1993 (Photo: Joop de Groot)


                                    • #22

                                      Army Air Corps Historic Flight Westland Scout XT626 as seen at Middle Wallop on 19th July 2012 (Photo: Lloyd Horgan)


                                      • #23

                                        Army Air Corps Westland Scout XT624 (cn F9630) as seen at Greenham Common on 7th July 1973 (Photo: RA Scholefield)

                                        Assigned to the AAC Development and Trials Squadron at Middle Wallop.


                                        • #24

                                          Westland Scout XT626 as seen at Middle Wallop on 7th November 2015 (Photo: Gary Beale)

                                          Army Air Corps Historic Flight.


                                          • #25

                                            Westland Scout in snow at Hobart Barracks in Germany in the late 1970's (Photo: J. Williams, via Andy Ottaway)


                                            • #26

                                              Westland Wasp HAS1 (P-531-2) G-KAXT (cn F9669) as seen at Old Warden on 5th June 2016 (Photo: Tom Howe) Ex-XT787

                                              I suppose we can accommodate the occasional Wasp!


                                              • #27

                                                Westland Scouts at AAC Middle Wallop on 4th August 1977

                                                I would like to disclose the purpose of the 'M' shaped paintwork on the nose of the 'resting' winch-equipped Scout but .. I am at a loss to explain it at present.


                                                • AndyM
                                                  AndyM commented
                                                  Editing a comment
                                                  The M shape is caused by the dayglo being cut around what appears to be a modification to the nose bay door. The last image in post 3 gives you a view of same also post 19.. So question is what was the modification for?

                                                • Savoia
                                                  Savoia commented
                                                  Editing a comment
                                                  Grazie Andy! 👍

                                              • #28

                                                Late 1981 in northern Germany. Engine failed on startup and the exercise was moving to a different location. No time to do an engine change so it was airlifted back to second line.


                                                • Savoia
                                                  Savoia commented
                                                  Editing a comment
                                                  Wow! Brilliant .. wonderful stuff Warty! What a 'blessing' to have the failure on start-up as opposed to some other time.

                                              • #29
                                                Swimming Scout

                                                Westland Scout XR628 as seen on 8th June 1982 in McPhee Pond, the Falkland Islands

                                                This photo shows the event detailed in post #1 under the 'Falklands' sub-heading.

                                                From 656 Squadron Association:

                                                While the Squadron was preparing to move to Fitzroy on 08 June the devastating air attack on the LSL's Sir Tristram and Sir Galahad took place. Some of the attacking Skyhawks gave Dick Kalinski and Lance Corporal Julian Rigg in Scout XR628 a very unpleasant surprise; Kalinski immediately took evasive action by getting down as low as possible, bringing the helicopter to a hover a few feet above McPhee Pond.

                                                His day did not improve as, when the coast was clear and he engaged power to resume tasking, he suffered a tail rotor driveshaft failure, with the result that the Scout had to make a rapid forced-landing in the shallow freshwater pond. The crew suffered not much more than wet feet, using the cabin door as a raft to reach the shore, but it would be several days before the helicopter could be recovered. John Greenhalgh picked up the crew,

                                                ‘I located the rather wet and bedraggled team on the lakeshore and so I closed down to establish what had happened. While I was being briefed, a Skyhawk flew over us very low and it was being followed by another so we cocked our weapons and prepared to fire at the second as it bore down on us when one of the aircrewmen, who was more able at aircraft recognition than the pilots shouted “Harrier!!” So we desisted!’


                                                • #30
                                                  Another picture of Dick Kalinski getting out of a Scout. This time above Sek Kong in the New Territories (Hong Kong).

                                                  (from the Army Air Corps Journal 1984)


                                                  • Savoia
                                                    Savoia commented
                                                    Editing a comment
                                                    Ah Warty, you are truly spoiling us with these fantastic shots. Wonderful!