Stimulated by the success of the Sikorsky R-4, the U.S. Army Air Force developed a specification for a large observation helicopter, with greater useful load, endurance, speed, and service ceiling. In response, Sikorsky designed the S-51, what would become the two-seat R-5 helicopter. Sikorsky Aircraft built about 65 R-5s, of various versions, for the USAAF, Navy, and Coast Guard. The XR-5 prototype first flew 18 August 1943. In March 1944 the AAF ordered 26 YR-5As for service testing, and in February 1945 the first YR-5A was delivered. The first two examples tested by the Navy were designated HO2S-1, while the remainder of the Navy/Coast Guard R-5 derivations were designated the HO3S-1. The first HO3Ss were delivered to the Coast Guard in August of 1946.
Originally designated the R-5 (for Rotorcraft-5), the designation of this helicopter was changed in 1948 to reflect new terminology introduced for rotary-wing aircraft. It was changed to H-5 (for Helicopter-5), a precursor of the modern designations.
During its service life, the H-5 was used for rescue and mercy missions throughout the world. It gained its greatest fame, however, during the Korean War when it was called upon repeatedly to rescue United Nations’ pilots shot down behind enemy lines and to evacuate wounded personnel from frontline areas.
More than 300 H-5s were built by the time production was halted in 1951.
R-5 Sikorsky Specifications and Performance
57 ft. 8 in.
5,500 lbs. loaded
450 hp Pratt & Whitney Wasp Jr.
107 mph at 1,500 ft.
85 mph at 1,500 ft.
275 miles at 1,500 ft.
Navy HO3S-1 Sikorsky (R-5) from Squadron VMO-6 parked near tents at Inchon, 13 December 1950.
Coast Guard Sikorsky HO3S (Sikorsky R-5), 30 January 1951. Emergency flotation bags are fitted around the landing gear struts and there is an externally-mounted fuel tank on the starboard side below the rotors.
Sikorsky YH-5A at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.