The Sikorsky_H-5 was made in 1943 but used an engine released in the 1930's. It seems to me that the used that applied to helicopters, specifically in warfare, could have applied much earlier. Things like SAR, Medivac, spotting and ground support would all have been useful in the Second World War.

  • $\begingroup$ Where do you get 1948 from? Your own wikipedia link states it first flew in 1943, and the first production aircraft was delivered in 1945. It also links to it's predecessor the R4 which was developed earlier and also saw some service in WW2 $\endgroup$ Feb 16, 2016 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Nigel Harper, whoops, my bad misread an "3" as a "8" but I think the question still applies. $\endgroup$
    – Sam
    Feb 16, 2016 at 17:19
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    $\begingroup$ Some of those roles were fulfilled using rotorcraft in WWII - See List of Rotorcraft used in WWII $\endgroup$ Feb 16, 2016 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ @RedGrittyBrick, Thanks for that. Most of those refer to very limited and experimental use. I guess I should clarify my question to ask why there wasn't far broader use. $\endgroup$
    – Sam
    Feb 16, 2016 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ All of the roles you mention were fulfilled by helicopters in the Korean war which was only 5 years after the end of WWII. Development in the late 40s and early 50s was very rapid and a common early 50s type, the Bell 47, was very capable first flying in 1946 and still in widespread use today. By the way, the R22 uses engine technology that would be recognised in the 30s. Tried, tested, simple easily understood and maintained and more or less bullet proof. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Feb 16, 2016 at 17:48

1 Answer 1


The useful payload and the robustness of rotorcraft were not sufficient for the rough conditions on the front. Only when turbines were available with their much better power-to-weight ratio and high reliability did helicopters offer a real advantage to the military.

The de Cierva autogyro line was begun in 1920, but de Cierva focused on building unstallable GA aircraft, not weapons. The same can be said for Henrich Focke, who improved on de Cierva's designs (which he built under license) with the Fa-61, which is considered the first practical helicopter.

The only helicopters to be used by the military were the designs of Anton Flettner who used two intermeshing rotors with considerable success, the transport helicopter Fa-223 with two rotors on outriggers and the Sikorsky R-4. The Flettner 282 and the Fa-223 were ordered by the Luftwaffe, but development took a long time, with many new problems to be overcome. In the end, they came too late to be used in any quantity.

The Sikorsky design was unstable and needed considerable pilot attention. Just watch how poor Igor is working the stick to keep the VS-300 straight! It also needed years of refinement before it could be used by the military. This was the R-4 which saw limited use for rescue missions from 1944 on.

Just because something can be demonstrated once does not imply it is ready for widespread use.

  • $\begingroup$ This is all true, I would point out that Sikorsky helicopters did see active service in the pacific theater during WWII, mostly search and rescue work. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Feb 16, 2016 at 17:57
  • $\begingroup$ @GdD: You are right, how could I forget the R-4! Edited. $\endgroup$ Feb 16, 2016 at 20:59
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    $\begingroup$ Mr. Sikorsky's hat fits him quite well! $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Feb 16, 2016 at 21:25

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