Beartrap (Helicopter Hauldown and Rapid Securing Device) | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Beartrap (Helicopter Hauldown and Rapid Securing Device)

The “beartrap” was a Canadian innovation designed in the 1960s to enable the safe operation of helicopters from destroyer-size ships. Known formally as the Helicopter Hauldown and Rapid Securing Device (HHRSD), it is now an integral part of all Canadian frigates. The beartrap revolutionized maritime helicopter operations and was adopted by other navies.

Sea King and Beartrap

Development and Service

While aircraft carriers (such as HMCS Bonaventure) are quite stable even in heavy seas, smaller warships pitch and roll in these conditions, making landing and launching aircraft both difficult and dangerous. Helicopters had proven very effective in antisubmarine warfare, which was the focus of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) during the Cold War. Thus, the navy began exploring the possibility of embarking helicopters on their new class of destroyers (see St Laurent-class Destroyer Escorts). Beginning in the 1950s, the RCN’s VX 10 Experimental Squadron, based at Shearwater, began working with Fairey Aviation Ltd. of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, to develop a solution. The result was the “beartrap” or HHRSD.

In 1963, a prototype was tested on HMCS Assiniboine, with the first hauldown landing of a Sea King helicopter in December 1963. HMCS Nipigon became the first operational helicopter-carrying destroyer in the Canadian navy in 1967. Since then, the beartrap has been used on all Canadian frigates and destroyers. It was also adopted by allied navies around the world, including Australia, the US and Japan.

Schematic diagram of the Beartrap helicopter hauldown system.

How Does It Work?

The beartrap/HHRSD allows helicopters to land safely on the deck of smaller warships, even in heavy seas. The helicopter hovers over the deck and lowers a wire line with an attached probe to the ship. Crew on deck fasten this to a hauldown cable, which is attached through the open trap to a ship-mounted winch located below the deck. The hauldown cable is then hoisted back up to the helicopter. Once it has been secured, no personnel are needed on deck. The hauldown cable slowly pulls the helicopter, guiding it onto the beartrap. The “jaws” of the device then lock around the helicopter’s main probe, securing it. The tail of the helicopter is secured by a second probe. The beartrap can then be used to move the helicopter in and out of the hangar, where it is protected from the elements.