Designed to be an asset for anti-submarine warfare, the Sikorsky S-58 proved to be one of the most useful helicopters throughout the 1960’s and on. From anti-submarine warfare to Coast Guard rescues, the S-58 could get the job done.
Sikorsky had developed the S-58 originally for the United States Navy and took the first S-58 into the skies on March 8, 1954. When first put into service, the S-58 had two variations, the Seabat and the Seahorse. The Seabat served as an anti-submarine helicopter while the Seahorse was a utility transport. Seeing how well the S-58 worked for the navy, it was eventually picked up by other branches of the military such as the Air Force and Marines.
During its active career in the military, the S-58 saw many different roles. A few of these roles included anti-submarine warfare, search & rescue, cargo transport, and even VIP transport. In its regular setup, the S-58 could carry 12 to 16 troops or up to eight stretchers if it was used as a MedEvac helicopter. The VIP Transport version of the S-58 could carry significantly fewer people but made up for this fact by transporting them in much greater comfort.
The majority of the S-58’s military career was spent in the Vietnam War. The U.S Military was worried about the safety of the S-58 at first due to French evaluations of ground attacks but eventually decided that the S-58 was at no greater risk than any other rotary-wing helicopter in the war zone. The S-58 went on to successfully carry out many missions ranging from combat assault to medical evacuations. The U.S. Marine Corps were among the first to utilize the S-58 as a gunship helicopter, outfitting it with machine guns and rocket pods. Nicknamed the “Stinger,” the gunship variation was met with mixed reviews and eventually phased out of service.
Surprisingly, the S-58 did not have a very extensive civilian career. Most helicopters found their way into charter services for transportation while a few of them were used by the forest firefighting services in Ontario. The S-58 also had a decent lift capacity and this saw the helicopter being used to retrieve and lift Mercury capsules.
While the Sikorsky S-58 may not have had the most prestigious careers like other famous helicopters, the S-58 helped show exactly how universal and useful a helicopter could be in military and civilian settings.