Armstrong-Whitworth A.W.650 Series 101 Argosy
British four-engine cargo/transport aircraft

Archive Photos 1

Armstrong-Whitworth A.W.650 Series 101 Argosy (N896U, c/n 6651, ’101’) on display 9/25/2003 at Yankee Air Museum, Ypsilanti, Michigan (Photos by John Shupek)

Overview 2

The Armstrong Whitworth Argosy was a British post-war military transport/cargo aircraft and was the last aircraft produced by Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft. Although given different type numbers, the AW.650 civil and AW.660 military models were both called Argosy and for practical purposes are basically the same design.

Development 2

The Argosy came from the Air Ministry Operation Requirement 323 (OR323) which resulted in a specification issued in 1955 for a medium-range freight aircraft capable of lifting 25,000 lb (11,340 kg) and that had a range of 2,302 mi (3,705 km) with 10,000 lb (4,500 kg). This led AW to develop a Twin-engine design for the military, the AW.660. The potential for civil sales led to a civil design AW.650. The 1957 Defense White Paper would show the lack of funding available for military work, but AW had revised the design for the civil market alone as a four-engine aircraft.

Operational History 2

The Argosy was used by the Royal Air Force for its capability to accommodate 69 troops, 48 stretcher cases or 29,000 lb (13,000 kg) of freight. This meant it could carry military equipment such as the Saracen or Ferret armored cars, or artillery such as the 105 mm (4.13 in) howitzer or Wombat.

The earliest deployments were in 1962 to 105 Squadron in the Middle East and 114 and 267 Squadrons at RAF Benson. The following year, 215 Squadron received its Argosies when based at RAF Changi, Singapore. The squadron was disbanded on New Year’s Eve 1967 and the aircraft went to 70 Squadron at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus. This was the last squadron to operate the aircraft in the transport role when it disposed of them in February 1975 in favor of Lockheed C-130 Hercules. The E.1 version of the Argosy was with 115 Squadron from 1968 to 1978, most of the time based at RAF Cottesmore.

Variants 2

Armstrong Whitworth AW 650 Argosy (1959)

The Armstrong Whitworth Argosy was a high-wing four-engined general-purpose transport aircraft supplied to a number of civil operators. First flown on 8 January 1959, a total of 17 were built for civil operators Riddle Airlines (Series 101) and British European Airways (series 102 and 222). The Argosy was powered by four Rolls-Royce Dart 526 turboprop engines driving Rotol four-blade propellers. The tailplane was on twin booms from the inner engine nacelles leaving the cargo doors at the rear of the fuselage clear for straight-in loading. This unusual pod and boom structure would earn it the nickname The Whistling Wheelbarrow.

It had a maximum weight of 97,000 lb (44,000 kg) and a payload of 28,000 lb (12,700 kg). Cruising at 242 mph (390 km/h), it had a range of 3,450 mi (5,550 km) and could seat 65 passengers. Two aircraft operated later by SAFE Air in New Zealand as the main link between the Chatham Islands and the mainland, were fitted with a pressurized passenger capsule.

10 Series 101 and 102 aircraft were built. Eight Series 200 aircraft were built, the series 200 had a larger freight hold and enlarged front and rear doors to enable it to carry standard size cargo pallets. The series 200 also had a lighter redesigned wing increasing the maximum range and Rolls-Royce Dart 532/1 turboprops.

The last flight by a New Zealand Argosy was made by operator SAFE AIR in 1990, that aircraft now being preserved in Blenheim, New Zealand.

Armstrong Whitworth AW 660 Argosy C.Mk.1

The military Argosy C.1 was designed as a replacement for the Vickers Valetta as a medium-range transport, paratroop and supply aircraft. The 660 was based upon the AW.650 Argosy civil transport which had flown 27 months previously. The first production military Argosy first flew in March 1961. The military version had the nose door sealed to take a weather radar radome, the rear doors were changed to ’clam shell’ style with an integral loading ramp, and two doors were fitted, one each on the starboard and portsides, to enable paratroopers to exit. The strong tricycle undercarriage of the original design allowed take-off and landing on rough or unprepared airstrips.

The military Argosy had four Rolls-Royce Dart 101 turboprops and had twice the range of the civil Series 100. Production of the Argosy for the RAF totalled 56 aircraft which served in six squadrons; three in the UK and one each in Aden, Cyprus, and the Far East. The Argosy was withdrawn from service in 1975 as an economic measure. Those aircraft not scrapped or retained were sold to commercial operators.

Hawker Siddeley Argosy E.Mk.1

In 1963, Hawker Siddeley Group dropped the names of its component companies, rebranding its products under the Hawker Siddeley banner. To meet a requirement for a RAF flight inspection aircraft, nine Argosy C.1s were modified in 1971 as the Argosy E1. These were a regular sight at British airfields operated by 115 Squadron until replaced by the Hawker Siddeley Andover in 1978.

Hawker Siddeley Argosy T.Mk.2

After the removal of the Argosy C.1 from the cargo/transport role, it was decided to modify several aircraft as Navigation Trainers for the RAF Training Command. Two aircraft were modified as the Argosy T2, but they were not successful and the program was abandoned due to defence cuts.

Operators 2

Military Operators

Civil Operators

Survivors 2

Specifications (A.W.650 Series 100) 2

General Characteristics



  1. Shupek, John. Armstrong Whitworth A.W.650 Argosy, The Skytamer Archive,. All Rights Reserved
  2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Armstrong Whitworth AW.650 Argosy


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