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The AW650 was designed by Armstrong-Whitworth to meet a 1955 British Air Ministry specification for a freight/passenger aircraft suitable for civil and miltary use. Initially known as the Freightliner, construction started as a private venture in early 1957. This was the manufacturer's last project as in 1958 the company was subsumed by the Hawker-Siddeley group, and the aircraft project was designated the HS.650 Argosy.

The prototype Series 100 freighter (c/n 6651 G-AOZZ) was first flown on January 8, 1959. Type certification was achieved in December 1959, by which time six had been completed. The aircraft was displayed in Paris in July, 1959 and Farnborough in 1960 where it attracted interest but few orders. The project was not successful in the commercial sector as only ten were built. Riddle Airlines of Miami, Florida ordered four aircraft, later increasing that to seven for a contract with the USAF. The three remaining Series 100 aircraft were sold to BEA. Apart from G-APRM (c/n 6653) all the series 100 aircraft were at some point operated in the USA, but many eventually returned to the UK. One (c/n 6656 VH-IPD) went on to work in Australia. All but two of the Series 100 Argosies had been scrapped by 1990, with the others surviving in UK museums.

A military variant of the AW650 was more successful. After evaluating the AW650 the RAF ordered 20 aircraft, but wanted a number of alterations to the aircraft. This included a strengthened wing which raised the MTOW from 39,916kg (88,000lb) to 55,250kg (121,800lb) and a change from the 1910shp Dart 526 to the 2680shp Dart 101 powerplants. The aircraft had only a rear cargo door which could be opened in flight (the civil version could not). The military AW-660 prototype first flew on March 4th 1961, and the RAF eventually acquired 56 aircraft. The first of these Argosy C.Mk.1 aircraft entered service in 1962, and soon became known as the 'whistling wheelbarrow' - a product of the aircraft shape and the characteristic sound of the dart engine. The aircraft was used for freight, troop transporting and parachute work - and later airfield calibration (seven aircraft being modified to E.1 models). A further aircraft was modified as a T.2. The RAF retired the last of its Argosies from active duty in 1975. The Argosy was used by the Royal Air Force for its capability to accommodate 69 troops, or 48 stretcher cases or 29,000 lb (13 tonnes) of freight. This meant it could carry military equipment such as the Saracen or Ferret armoured cars, or artillery such as the 105 mm howitzer or Wombat.

70 Squadron - relocated from Fayid in Egypt to Nicosia in Cyprus in 1955 and the following year converted to the Hastings, which were used during the Suez Crisis after which it continued to provide transport cover for the Middle and Near East areas.  In November 1967 the squadron received Argosies but from November 1970, Hercules began to arrive, although it was 1973 before the final Argosy left.
105 Squadron - The reformed squadron was initially based at Benson equipped with Argosies in the transport role, which it  took to Aden in June of that year, where it provided support to security forces in the region.  With the run-down of forces in Aden, the  squadron moved to Bahrain in August 1967, disbanding there on 20 January 1968
114 Squadron reformed at Colerne on 5 May 1959, once again in the transport role but now equipped with Hastings aircraft. These were  flown until 30 Sep 1961 when the squadron was disbanded only to be reformed the following day at Benson as the first Argosy squadron, although its first aircraft did not arrive until February 1962.  With the withdrawal of the Argosy from service, the squadron was finally disbanded on 31 October 1971
115 Squadron was a Radar Calibration unit operating Varsities and Valettas.  Argosies began arriving in February 1968 and when the last Varsity was retired in August 1970, the unit was solely equipped with this type.  Andovers were added in November 1976 and the last Argosy left in January 1978.
215 Squadron's final period of service began 1 May 1963 when it was reformed as medium range transport unit equipped with the Argosy at Benson.  In the following August it moved to Singapore, where it supported the Army in Malaya until finally disbanding at Changi on 31December 1968.
267 Squadron reformed on 1 November 1962 as a tactical transport unit at Benson, equipped with the Argosy C Mk 1 in No 38 Group, disbanding for the final time on 30 June 1970.
242 Operational Conversion Unit Formed by merging No's 240 and 241 OCUs on 16 April 1951. It was responsible for training all transport crews, but relinquished the training of strategic crews in 1970 when No 241 OCU was reformed, after which it became purely the Hercules OCU. It was disbanded by being renamed No 57 (Reserve) Squadron on 1 July 1992.


Specification
Powerplant: Four Rolls Royce RDa.8 Dart turboprops 1843kW (2470shp) each
Wing span: 3505m (115ft)
Length: 27.12m (89ft)
Height: 8.23m (27ft)
Wing area: 135.45msq (1458sq ft)
Empty weight: 25400kg (56000lb)
Maximum take-off weight: 44000kg (97000lb) overload 47628kg (105000lb)
Payload: 13154kg (29000lb)
Cruising speed: 440kg/hr (273mph)
Range: 5560km (3455 miles), with maximum payload 555km (345 miles)


The Red Arrows perform a fly-past over these Argosies in storage at Kemble