Armstrong Whitworth's last major contribution to the field of aviation became the AW.660 "Argosy", a four-engined, turboprop-powered, twin-boom product developed exclusively as a heavy cargo hauler with excellent range. The design flew for the first time on January 8th, 1959 and served in its given capacity - across both civilian and military markets - into the 1990s. Total production yielded 74 units with a primary operator of the type becoming the British Royal Air Force (RAF).
In the post-World War 2 period, Armstrong Whitworth engineers drew up plans for the AW.65 and AW.66. The former was a twin-engined, civilian-minded hauler while the AW.65 was its military market form. While both of these designs ultimately fell to naught, the AW.66 was seen as the perfect candidate for a grander evolutionary vision. As such, the same twin-boom configuration with shoulder-wing monoplane arrangement was used in a succeeding design - "AW.650" - now reworked to utilize the power of 4 x Rolls-Royce Dart turboprop engines. A first-flight followed in January of 1959 and, once federally certified for civilian air traffic, the AW.650 entered civilian service as the "Series 100" (to include Series 101 and Series 102 marks).
The aircraft certainly held a unique appearance beyond its twin-boom design: the section nose had a towering appearance due to the elevated flight deck seated over it. The nose cone was hinged to open towards starboard, revealing the deep and cavernous hull space within which was rated for 69 combatants, 54 paratroopers, or 48 medical litters. In place of any of this, hold could sustain loads of up to 29,000lb. The undercarriage, wheeled and retractable, gave the aircraft a very low appearance on the ground to better facilitate cargo moving in and out of the hold. The fuselage sides were lined with porthole style windows for limited viewing and each shoulder-mounted wing member carried a pair of underslung turboprop engines whose nacelles extended well beyond the wing leading edges. At the rear of the aircraft the two booms were joined by a shared horizontal plane which was, itself, bookended by vertical stabilizers. While not the prettiest aircraft of the period, the transport was nonetheless a reliable, functional performer.
Seventeen Series 100 and 200 aircraft were built in all. The "Series 200" followed in March of 1964 as a stronger, lighter weight variant specifically developed to a British European Airways (BEA) requirement. Changes to the wings and hold allowed for greater cargo loads to be carried over greater distances than seen in the original offering. Of the seventeen total aircraft, seven were Series 200 dedicated airframes and these came powered by Rolls Royce Dart 532/1 turboprop engines.
The promising nature of the AW.650 as a military cargo hauler led the Royal Air Force to pursue a militarized form as the AW.660 "Argosy". After some modifications to the civilian design, the military model emerged for its first-flight on March 4th, 1961. The redesign included a reworked loading door, mission-specific equipment, and increased operational range. This led to the C.Mk 1 operational standard which included EKCO weather radar, seating for up to seventy-two, additional center-wing section fuel tanks, and a reinforced undercarriage for the rigors of military service. The RAF took on a stock of fifty-six C.Mk 1 haulers for their part in the story and operated the line into 1978. These examples were flown through squadron Nos. 70, 105, 114, 115, 215, 267, and 242 as well as No.6 Flying Training School RAF and the Empire Test Pilots School. Once their usefulness was over, some of the fleet was handed down to the Kuwait Air Force and used for a time while others were scrapped.
In 1963, the line was rebranded under the Hawker Siddeley parent label and there followed nine C.Mk 1 aircraft repurposed as "E.Mk 1" flight inspection specimens for the RAF - these were operated into 1978. A proposed fourteen-strong navigational trainer modification initiative resulted in just two airframes completed to the T.Mk 2 standard due to budget issues and downsizing of the fleet.
Civilian market forms were not given up until 1991, such was the design's contribution to aviation despite its limited production numbers. Civilian operators became Australia, Canada, Gabon, Ireland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Zaire.
The AW.670 was a short-lived derivative of the proposed AW.660 - this version given a fixed tricycle undercarriage for greater simplicity - but the work did not proceed beyond the drawing stage.
Status Retired, Out-of-Service
Production 74 Units
Armstrong Whitworth - UK
Australia; Canada; Gabon; Ireland; Kuwait; Luxembourg; New Zealand; Philippines; Singapore; United Kingdom; United States; Zaire
- Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC)
- Advanced Training
86.78 ft (26.45 m)
114.99 ft (35.05 m)
29.27 ft (8.92 m)
55,997 lb (25,400 kg)
105,006 lb (47,630 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Armstrong Whitworth AW.660 production model)
4 x Rolls-Royce Dart RDa.8 Mk 101 turboprop engines developing 2,470 horsepower each driving four-bladed propeller units.
255 mph (410 kph; 221 kts)
22,966 feet (7,000 m; 4.35 miles)
3,449 miles (5,550 km; 2,997 nm)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Armstrong Whitworth AW.660 production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Armstrong Whitworth AW.660 production model)
AW.660 "Argosy" - Base Series Designation.
AW.650 - Civilian market model of 1959; 17 examples completed.
Argosy C.Mk 1 (AW.660) - Modified model with nose-mounted weather radar, reinforced undercarriage, center-wing fuel stores, APU, 72-seating capacity, and toilet/galley; 56 examples completed for RAF service.
Argosy E.Mk 1 - RAF flight inspection variant by Hawker Siddeley; model of 1971.
Argosy T.Mk 2 - RAF navigation trainers; 14 examples planned though only two completed.
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
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