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Sikorsky H-34 / S-58
A United States Army CH-34
Role Helicopter
National origin United States
Manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft
First flight 8 March 1954
Introduction 1954
Status In service
Primary users United States Army
United States Navy
United States Marine Corps
Produced 1954–1970[1] (Foreign production of derivatives and sub-types continued under license after the Sikorsky production ended.)
Number built 2,108[citation needed]
Developed from Sikorsky H-19 Chickasaw
Developed into Westland Wessex

The Sikorsky H-34 "Choctaw" (company designation S-58) is an American piston-engined military helicopter originally designed by Sikorsky as an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft for the United States Navy. It has seen extended use when adapted to turbine power by the British licensee as the Westland Wessex and Sikorsky as the later S-58T.

H-34s served, mostly as medium transports, on every continent with the armed forces of 25 countries. It saw combat in Algeria, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and throughout Southeast Asia. Other uses included saving flood victims, recovering astronauts, fighting fires, and carrying presidents. It was the last piston-engined helicopter to be operated by the United States Marine Corps, having been replaced by turbine-powered types such as the UH-1 Huey and CH-46 Sea Knight. A total of 2,108 H-34s were manufactured between 1953 and 1970.[2]

YouTube Encyclopedic

  • 1/5
    340 821
    1 663
    33 583
    221 056
  • Sikorsky UH-34D "Ugly Angel" YL-37 helicopter take-off
  • US Army Sikorsky H-34 Choctaw air assault exercise
  • SIKORSKY UH-34 SEAHORSE (SEABAT) | at American Helicopter Museum, West Chester, Pa.
  • UH-34D Seahorse Helicopter Landing
  • Sikorsky S-58/H34 ,the sound of the sixties



A U.S. Navy HSS-1 with dipping sonar deployed, in 1960.
CH-37C and UH-34D of the United States Marine Corps.

The Sikorsky S-58 was developed as a lengthened and more powerful version of the Sikorsky Model S-55, or UH-19 Chickasaw, with a similar nose, but with a tail-dragger rear fuselage and landing gear, rather than the high-tail, 4-post pattern. It retained the nose-mounted radial reciprocating engine with the drive shaft passing through the cockpit placed high above the cargo compartment.

The aircraft first flew on 8 March 1954. The first production aircraft was ready in September and entered in service for the United States Navy initially designated HSS-1 Seabat (in its anti-submarine configuration) and HUS-1 Seahorse (in its utility transport configuration) under the U.S. Navy designation system for U.S. Navy, United States Marine Corps (USMC) and United States Coast Guard (USCG) aircraft. The U.S. Army and Marine Corps, respectively, ordered it in 1955 and 1957. Under the United States Army's aircraft designation system, also used by the United States Air Force, the helicopter was designated H-34. The U.S. Army also applied the name Choctaw to the helicopter. In 1962, under the new unified DoD aircraft designation system, the Seabat was redesignated SH-34, the Seahorse as the UH-34, and the Choctaw as the CH-34.

Roles included utility transport, anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue, and VIP transport. In its standard configuration, transport versions could carry 12 to 16 troops, or eight stretcher cases if utilized in the MedEvac role, while VIP transports carried significantly fewer people in much greater comfort.

A total of 135 H-34s were built in the US and assembled by Sud-Aviation in France, 166 were produced under licence in France by Sud-Aviation for the French Air Force, Navy and Army Aviation (ALAT).

The CH-34 was also built and developed under license from 1958 in the United Kingdom by Westland Aircraft as the turboshaft engined Wessex which was used by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. The RN Wessex was fitted out with weapons and ASW equipment for use in an antisubmarine role. The RAF used the Wessex, with turboshaft engines, as an air/sea rescue helicopter and as troop transporter. Wessexes were also exported to other countries and produced for civilian use.

Operational history

Algerian War

The helicopters used by the French Army Light Aviation (ALAT), including the Sikorsky H-34, aggregated over 190,000 flying hours in Algeria (over 87,000 for the H-21 alone) and helped to evacuate over 20,000 French combatants from the combat area, including nearly 2,200 at night. By the time the war in Algeria had ended, eight officers and 23 non-commissioned officers from ALAT had been killed.

The use of armed helicopters during the Algerian War, coupled with helicopter transports which can insert troops into enemy territory, gave birth to some of the modern tactics of airmobile warfare.[3]

Vietnam War

A U.S. Coast Guard HUS-1G in 1960.

French evaluations on the reported ground fire vulnerabilities of the CH-34 may have influenced the U.S. Army's decision to deploy the CH-21 Shawnee to Vietnam instead of the CH-34, pending the introduction into widespread service of the Bell UH-1 Iroquois. U.S. Army H-34s did not participate in Vietnam, and did not fly in the assault helicopter role, but a quantity were supplied to the Republic of Vietnam Air Force (RVNAF). These saw little use due to a lack of spare parts and maintenance.[4]

U.S. Marine Corps UH-34Ds over Mekong Delta.
U.S. Marine Corps UH-34Ds over Vietnam, 1965.

Its higher availability and reliability due to its simplicity compared to the newer helicopters led Marines to ask for it by name. The phrases "give me a HUS", "get me a HUS" and "cut me a HUS" entered the U.S. Marine Corps vernacular, being used even after the type was no longer in use to mean "help me out".[5]

USMC H-34s were also among the first helicopter gunships trialled in theatre, being fitted with the Temporary Kit-1 (TK-1), comprising two M60C machine guns and two 19-shot 2.75 inch rocket pods. The operations were met with mixed enthusiasm, and the armed H-34s, known as "Stingers" were quickly phased out. The TK-1 kit would form the basis of the TK-2 kit used on the UH-1E helicopters of the USMC.

An H-34 was featured in the famous early-Vietnam War Time-Life photo essay "One Ride With Yankee Papa 13", photographer Larry Burrows, which depicted stages of a disastrous combat mission in which several crew were wounded or killed.[6]

Post-Vietnam War

The H-34 remained in service with United States Army and Marine Corps aviation units into the late 1960s; at this time it was also standard equipment in Marine Corps Reserve, Army Reserve and Army National Guard aviation units, eventually being replaced by the UH-1 Iroquois utility helicopter. Sikorsky terminated all production activities in 1968, a total of 1,821 having been built.[7] All H-34 helicopters were retired from service in the U.S. military by the early 1970s; the type having the distinction of being the last piston-engined helicopter to be operated by the Marine Corps. On 3 September 1973, the last flight of a USMC UH-34 occurred as Bureau Number 147191 which had been formally assigned to Headquarters Squadron, FMF Pacific was flown from Quantico, Virginia to MCAS New River to be placed on static display.[8][9]


France purchased an initial batch of 134 Choctaws; these were shipped in kit-form from the United States and locally assembled by Sud-Aviation. Later, a further 166 were domestically manufactured by Sud-Aviation; these were operated by the French Army Light Aviation (Army), French Naval Aviation (Navy) and Air force.

Wessex at Ascension Island, 1982

United Kingdom

The Wessex was used as an anti-submarine and utility helicopter with the Royal Navy and as a transport and search and rescue helicopter with the Royal Air Force. British Wessex saw action in several conflicts: Falklands, Oman, Borneo, Aden, etc.

South Vietnam

RVNAF CH-34As at Tan Son Nhut.
USMC helicopter in Vietnam.
S-58T of New York Helicopter at 34th Street Helicopter pad in 1987

Used by RVNAF 219th Squadron to insert MACV-SOG reconnaissance teams into Laos.[10] The H-34 was the primary RVNAF helicopter until replaced by the Bell UH-1 Huey.[11]


Israeli Air Force Sikorsky S-58 (1967)

Israeli S-58s flew numerous combat missions after the end of the Six-Day War; these missions were mainly against Palestinians infiltrating Israel or against their bases in Jordan. On 21 March 1968, various S-58s participated in the Battle of Karameh, bringing Israeli troops in and out of the theatre as well as evacuating the wounded. This was the last operation of the S-58 as it was retired shortly later, having been replaced by the newer Bell 205 and Aérospatiale Super Frelon.[12]

Civilian use

Civil S-58T powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6T Twin-Pac turbine power plant

The H-34's lift capacity was just sufficient to lift a Mercury space capsule. In 1961, the hatch of Mercury-Redstone 4 was prematurely detached and the capsule was filled with seawater. The extra weight was too much for the H-34 and the capsule, Liberty Bell 7, was emergency released and sank in deep water,[13] remaining on the ocean floor until 1999.

Sikorsky set up a production line in 1970 to remanufacture existing S-58 aircraft into the S-58T configuration, replacing the R-1820 engine with a pair of Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6T-3 Twin-Pac turboshafts; Sikorsky obtained a Federal Aviation Administration type certificate for the conversion in April 1971. The conversion enhanced safety, allowing the aircraft to continue flight after an engine failure, and greatly improved its hot and high performance; whereas the R-1820 could only provide full power up to an altitude of 700 ft (210 m), the paired PT-6s provide full power up to 6,000 ft (1,800 m), and an S-58T can fly at maximum gross weight up to 5,000 ft (1,500 m). The type certificate for the S-58T was sold to California Helicopter International in 1981.[14]

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, S-58T helicopters were operated by New York Helicopters in scheduled passenger airline service between JFK International Airport and East 34th Street Heliport, New York.[15]

In the early 1970s, Orlando Helicopter Airways developed a novel civil conversion of the S-55/H-19, the Heli-Camper, a campervan-like conversion—featuring a built-in mini-kitchen and sleeping accommodations for four.[16] Later in that decade, Orlando developed a larger version based on the S-58, and participated in a joint effort with popular American recreational vehicle (RV) manufacturer Winnebago Industries to market both aircraft as the Winnebago Heli-Home. The S-58 version featured a larger kitchenette, sleeping accommodations for six, a minibar, and an entertainment system; optional floats were offered for amphibious operations. The aircraft were featured in several American popular magazines and reportedly drew large crowds at RV shows and dealerships, but their high purchase price together with rising 1970s fuel prices resulted in very limited sales; production is not well documented, but is estimated at only six or seven of the S-55 and S-58 versions combined.[17]


U.S. Army version of the HSS-1 powered by a 1,525 hp R-1820-84, re-designated CH-34A in 1962, 359 built and 21 transferred from the U.S. Navy.
Designation for H-34A used for weapon tests.
Staff transport conversions of H-34A.
H-34As converted with detail changes, became CH-34B in 1962.
H-34B design with detail changes converted from H-34As, became CH-34C in 1962.
Designation for CH-34C used for weapon tests.
Staff transport conversions of CH-34C.
Designation applied to aircraft given USAF serials to be transferred under MAP and MDAP.
HUS-1L re-designated in 1962
HUS-1 re-designated in 1962 and 54 new build.
HUS-1Z re-designated in 1962
HUS-1A re-designated in 1962
HUS-1G re-designated in 1962
YHSS-1 re-designated in 1962
HSS-1 re-designated in 1962
HSS-1F re-designated in 1962
SH-34Js on the USS Essex in 1962
A VH-34D presidential helicopter (BuNo 147201) on the South Lawn of the White House in 1961
YHSS-1N re-designated in 1962
HSS-1N re-designated in 1962
SH-34J without ASW equipment for cargo and training purposes.
Ex-USN UH-34Js operated by the U.S. Air Force
Staff transport conversions of SH-34J.
XHSS-1 Seabat
Three Sikorsky S-58s for evaluation by the U.S. Navy, re-designated YHSS-1 then YSH-34G in 1962.
HSS-1 Seabat
Production Anti-Submarine model for the U.S. Navy, re-designated SH-34G in 1962, 215 built
HSS-1F Seabat
One HSS-1 re-engined with two YT-58-GE as a flying test bed, re-designated SH-34H in 1962.
YHSS-1N Seabat
One HSS-1 converted as the HSS-1N prototype, re-designated YSH-34J in 1962.
HSS-1N Seabat
Night/Bad weather version of the HSS-1 with improved avionics and autopilot, re-designated SH-34J in 1962, 167 built (an addition 75 HSS-1 airframes were built to CH-34C standard for West Germany).
HUS-1 Seahorse
Utility transport version of the HSS-1 for the U.S. Marine Corps, re-designated UH-34D in 1962, 462 built
HUS-1A Seahorse
Forty HUS-1s fitted with amphibious pontoons, re-designated UH-34E in 1962.
HUS-1G Seahorse
United States Coast Guard version of the HUS-1, re-designated HH-34F in 1962, six built.
HUS-1L Seahorse
Four HUS-1s converted for Antarctic operations with VXE-6, re-designated LH-34D in 1962.
HUS-1Z Seahorse
Seven HUS-1s fitted with VIP interior for the Executive Flight Detachment, re-designated VH-34D in 1962.
Canadian military designation for the S-58B.
Commercial designation for basic cargo variant, certified in 1956
Commercial designation for improved cargo variant, certified in 1956
Commercial passenger transport/airliner version, certified in 1956
An S-58T performing an external load operation in Dallas, Texas.
Commercial airliner/freighter version, certified in 1961
Certified in 1971
Certified in 1972 an increased maximum weight variant of the S-58B.
Certified in 1972 an increased maximum weight variant of the S-58C.
Certified in 1972 an increased maximum weight variant of the S-58D.
Certified in 1972 an increased maximum weight variant of the S-58E
Commercial conversion to turboshaft power using Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6T-3 Twin-Pac turboshaft with special nose cowling featuring distinctive twin rectangular air intakes, designations relate to original model:
Turboshaft-powered conversion of the S-58B
Turboshaft-powered conversion of the S-58D
Turboshaft-powered conversion of the S-58E
Turboshaft-powered conversion of the S-58F
Turboshaft-powered conversion of the S-58H
Turboshaft-powered conversion of the S-58J
Orlando Heli-Camper / Winnebago Heli-Home
RV conversion by Winnebago Industries and Orlando Helicopter, fitted with a Wright Cyclone R-1820-24 engine[17]
Orlando Airliner
Commercial conversion. 18-seat passenger transport helicopter.
Westland Wessex
Licence production and development in the United Kingdom.


 Costa Rica
 West Germany
 Khmer Republic
Laos Kingdom of Laos
 South Vietnam
 Republic of China
 United States

Accidents and incidents

  • 27 July 1960 Chicago Helicopter Airways Flight 698 a S-58C registered N879 crashed into Forest Home Cemetery, Forest Park, Illinois, United States with the loss of 11 passengers and two crew. The investigation concluded that the helicopter became uncontrollable as a result of structural disintegration in flight caused by a fatigue failure of the main rotor blade.[42]
  • 14 November 1971 Sikorsky SH-34J, A-062 of the Uruguayan Navy lost control after trying to lift a ground vehicle in an airshow, the helicopter fell to the ground hitting another Sikorsky SH-34J Helicopter. The broken blades flew directly into the audience of the airshow killing 8 people and severely injuring and mutilating at least 40 more. Due to the unstable political situation of the country at the time, no investigation followed the accident. Several years later, many irregularities came to light: The helicopter condition was not good when it was purchased by the Uruguayan Navy, fuel used was not appropriate, temperature on the day of the accident was too high to attempt a heavy lift, and the co-pilot of the helicopter was a fixed wing pilot with no experience in rotary wing aircraft.[43]
  • 10 July 2002 Sikorsky S-58ET, N580US (S/N 58-1673, built 1963), struck power transmission lines with its tailwheel, ripping the aircraft in two, over Brookville Lake, Indiana. One crew member was killed; the other two crew members were rescued by boaters. The aircraft was operated by Midwest Helicopter Airways of Hinsdale, Illinois, and registered to Midwest Truxton International of Burr Ridge, Illinois. "Based on interviews with witnesses and the surviving pilots, there was no indication of any mechanical failure," said SGT. Steve Comer of the Indiana State Police. NTSB Accident Report #CHI02FA189 [44]
  • 13 March 2011 Sikorsky S-58ET, N33602, suffered an engine failure, descended and veered off the side of an office building in El Segundo, California, while lifting an external air conditioning unit from the roof. The commercial pilot was seriously injured, the helicopter was substantially damaged and consumed by a post-impact fire. The helicopter was registered to Heli Flight, Inc., and operated by Aris Helicopters.[45]

Aircraft on display

Sikorsky UH-34D Seahorse in National Air and Space Museum
  • HSS-1, No. 182, is on display at the Base d'aéronautique navale d'Hyères, the military part of the Toulon–Hyères Airport in France.[49] Serving until 1977 with 31F squadron, it was one of the last operational H-34's in French Naval Aviation. Now restored, No. 182 is displayed in the typical navy blue color of the French navy's helicopters of this time period.[50]


  • A former Royal Netherlands Navy SH-34J Seabat bearing the markings of number 134 operating from Valkenburg naval air station is on display with folded rotor blades and tail in the newly opened "Nationaal Militair Museum" situated at the former airbase of Soesterberg. Previously the aircraft was displayed in the National Air Force museum at Kamp Zeist which has since closed down.[62]
United States
UH-34D at the Cavanaugh Flight Museum

Specifications (H-34 Choctaw)

Data from Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1958-59[118]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Capacity: 12 troops (H-34A) / 18 troops (H-34C) / 8 stretchers
  • Length: 47 ft 2 in (14.38 m) fuselage
56 ft 8.5 in (17 m) rotors turning[citation needed]
  • Height: 14 ft 3.5 in (4.356 m)
  • Empty weight: 7,646 lb (3,468 kg)
  • Gross weight: 11,867 lb (5,383 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 13,300 lb (6,033 kg)
  • Fuel capacity: 198–307 US gal (165–256 imp gal; 750–1,160 L)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Wright R-1820-84 Cyclone , 1,525 hp (1,137 kW) for take-off
1,275 hp (951 kW) METO for 5 minutes
  • Main rotor diameter: 56 ft 0 in (17.07 m)
  • Main rotor area: 2,463 sq ft (228.8 m2) *Blade section: - NACA 0012[119]


  • Maximum speed: 122 mph (196 km/h, 106 kn) [120]
  • Cruise speed: 97 mph (156 km/h, 84 kn) [120]
  • Range: 190 mi (310 km, 170 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 12,000 ft (3,700 m)
  • Hover ceiling IGE: 9,600 ft (2,926 m) (H-34A)
  • Hover ceiling OGE: 5,500 ft (1,676 m) (H-34A)
  • Rate of climb: 1,500 ft/min (7.6 m/s) at sea level
  • Vertical rate of climb: 600 ft/min (3.05 m/s) at sea level


Notable appearances in media

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists


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Further reading

External links

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