99 Westland Scout AH-1

The Westland Scout was developed from the Saunders-Roe P531. The British Army was immediately interested in it as a light battlefield helicopter. The pre-production and development variant flew in 1960 and proved so successful that only one month later the British Army placed its initial order for the Scout AH Mk1, which differed from earlier models only by having powered controls.

The Scout has a cruise speed of 100 knots, a top speed of 114 knots / 131 mph, a range of 315 nautical miles and an endurance of 2 hours 30 mins. The type entered service with the British Army in 1963 as a replacement for the Skeeter, offering greater reliability, substantially improved payload and general operating superiority. Since 1963 these have been standard multi-role tactical aircraft with skid landing gear, a six-seat cabin and the Nimbus 101 or 102 turboshaft engine. External loads included two litters in side-mounted pods and in the anti-tank role the aircraft carried 4 x SS-11 wire-guided missiles.

The Scout proved its operational versatility, working in close-support, liaison, light freight, medivac, communication, reconnaissance, search and rescue and training roles. It served with distinction in Borneo, during the Indonesia- Malaysia Confrontation, the Aden emergency, Oman, Rhodesia, Northern Ireland and the South Atlantic. It was also used by the Royal Navy (Wasp variant), Royal Australian Navy (Wasp variant), Royal Jordanian Army, South African Air Force, Bahrain State Police and the Uganda Police Air Wing.

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Our Scout XT626

Our Scout is airframe number f.9632 and was delivered to the Army Air Corps in February 1966. XT626 served from 1963 until the late 1980s, seeing out service with the Territorial Army at Netheravon. She has continued to fly in the Historic Flight since then.


The aircraft was in service with 666 Squadron and based at RAF Topcliffe from early 1970s in support of 24 Brigade. They flew 6 Scout AH1 and 6 Sioux helicopters and shared Hanger 5 with 15 flight AAC who had 4 Beaver aircraft. The squadron was known as the Scottish Squadron from its late RAF days. It was part of 3 regiment AAC based at Netheravon. It is believed that they moved to Dishforth shortly after 24 brigade moved into RAF Topcliffe.

During October 1974 the aircraft was in service with the Westland Trials Flight at Wroughton and was undergoing modifications to carry the Nord SS11 missiles.

666 Squadron was deactivated on 1 November 1978 and it was later reformed as the Territorial Army 666 Squadron (Volunteers) on 26 April 1986. It flew Scout AH1 between April 1986 and March 1994 and therefter the Gazelle AH1 from 1994 to 2009.

Our aircraft was transferred from the AAC to the Ministry of Defence Army Historic Aircraft Flight at Middle Wallop and registed as a civilian aircraft (G-CIBW) during October 2013. The aircraft was transferred to Historic Aircraft Flight Trust at Middle Wallop during May 2015.

Technical Information and Development

Main Rotor Diameter9.83 metre (32 feet 3 inches)
Length9.25 metres (30 feet 4 inches)
Height2.72 metres (8 feet 11 inches)
Weight, Empty1,466 kg (3,232 lb)
Weight, Max Take Off2,404 kg (5,300 lb)
Cruising Speed196 km/h (122 mph)
Max Speed211 km/h (131 mph)
Rate of Climb8.5 metres/second (1,670 feet/minute)
Service Ceiling5,400 metres (17,700 feet)
Range507 km (315 miles)
Power PlantRolls Royce Nimbus 101 turboshaft engine 1,050 shp (780kW)
Technical Information: Scout AH-1

The Westland Scout (and it’s similar Naval version the Westland Wasp) were developed from the Sauners Roe Saro P531 as five to six seat general purpose helicopter for the British Army. The first protype that met both Army and Navy requirements was the P531-2 which flew on 9 August 1959 with a Bristol Siddely Nimbus engine. A de Havilland Gnome H1000 engine was later trialled in the aircraft however the production Scout AH-1 used the Rolls Royce (formerly Bristol Siddely) Nimbus engine. Eight pre-production P531-2 aircaft were delivered from August 1960 for evaluation. purposes.

The first Army Scout AH-1 flew on the 4 August 1960 and that was followed by a powered controls version that flew on 6 March 1961. A total of 142 Scout AH-1 aircraft were ordered from September 1960 with deliveries starting in early 1963 and finishing in 1968. The Scout entered service with the Army Air Corps in 1963 as a replacement for the Saunders-Roe Skeeter. The Scout was used in the anti-tank, close-support, liaison, light freight, medevac, communication, reconnaissance, SAR and training roles. It was withdrawn from service in 1994.

The Scout’s internal layout had two front seats and a three seat bench in the rear. The bench could be replaced with a four seat bench when the aircraft was fitted with modified rear doors. When the aircraft was used in the medevac role it could carry two stretchers internally and two stretchers externally in panniers attached to the skids.

In the anti-tank role the Scout was able to carry four wire-guided Nord SS11 missiles These missiles had a range of about 7,000 metres, a maximum flight time of approximately 30 seconds and were equipped with a 28 kg shaped charge HEAT warhead. Guidance was via MCLOS (Manual Commant to Line of Sight) using a gyro stabilised optical sight with x2.5 and x10 magnification. The lower part of the Avimo-Ferranti AF120 sight could be retracted into its housing while not is use and which gave this device a periscope-like ‘feel’ to it.

In the light attack role the Scout could either two skid-mounted forward-firing machine guns (L8A1 GPMG) packs or a single pintle-mounted machine gun in the rear cabin. The pintle mount was available in both port and starboard mountings. The skid-mounted 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.

Although many other weapons and equipment were evaluated many were never adopted. Amongst these were the 7.62mm General Electric Minigun and the two-inch rocket pod. The rocket pods were mounted either side of the central fuselage section on the multi-spar weapon booms and both smooth tube and fin-stabilised rockets. The accuracy was described as “indifferent”. Studies were also carried out for a pintle mounted M2 Browning machine gun in place of the standard 7.62 GPMG, and the French AME.621 20mm cannon. 

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 when necessary.

Because of the specialist nature of operations in Northern Ireland the Scout was adapted to carry 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.

Scout Gallery

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