The South African Navy received their first batch of ten new build airframes in 1963, which was followed by the order for an additional 8. Of these, only 6 were delivered due to the International arms embargo placed on South Africa during the apartheid era. The Wasps were flown by 22 Flight, from AFB Ysterplaat. This squadron became 22 Squadron, Maritime Command in 1976.
The helicopters were operated from the Navy’s President class frigates. The South African Navy withdrew their last Wasp in 1990.
The Westland Scout and Wasp AH.1 helicopters were developed from the Saunders Roe P.531 design. The first prototype flew on 29th August 1960.
The Saunders-Roe P.531 development aircraft was viewed as a viable helicopter to be used aboard frigates. With the difficulties of landing on deck in heavy seas, many different undercarriage configurations were tried., and eventually the four wheel castoring “Tea Trolley” design was picked and after some lengthy testing an order was placed for the “Sea Scout AH1” in 1961.
The name was changed to “Wasp” and the aircraft was put into service in 1963.
Around 98 Wasp helicopters were built for the Royal Navy and unlike the Scout there was more interest from overseas goverments and another 42 aircraft were built for export. These helicopters were purchased by: the Indonesian Navy(4)The Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service(12) The Royal New Zealand Air Force(6)The South African Air Force(16)The Brazilian Navy(4).
The Wasp was kitted out with ASW (anti submarine) equipment which included depth charges, 2 Mk.44 homing torpedoes or 1 Mk.46 torpedo.
Developed as an antisubmarine ship-based unit, the aircraft carries a pilot and a flight engineer and three passengers. Armed with either two Mk 44 torpedoes or depth charges, this aircraft had a range of 488km and a maximum speed of 104 knots, or 193 km/h.
Powered by a Rolls Royce Bristol Nimbus 503 turbo shaft, the SAAF ordered 17 WASPs of which 16 were delivered.