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658 Squadron Army Air Corps (AAC)

658 Squadron AAC (Army Air Corps) is a little-known and rarely-spotted unit that operates a fleet of Eurocopter Dauphin helicopters in support of the 22nd Special Air Service (22 SAS).

Note: the unit was previously designated as 8 Flight AAC. It was renamed to 658 Squadron AAC in September 2013.

658 Squadron is based at SAS HQ at Credenhill, near Hereford. It is part of the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing (JSFAW)

Painted in civilian colours, the AS365 N3 Dauphin helicopters of 658 Squadron can blend in to normal civilian air traffic and thus allow the SAS to be transported quickly but covertly around the United Kingdom. In addition to covert transport, 658 Squadron Dauphins can also fly the SAS into action during counter terrorism operations.

658 Squadron Dauphins are believed to have been modified with a secure radio communications fitment. Some photos show 658 Sqn Dauphins fitted with a sensor turret, likely housing an infrared and/or electro optical camera. They can be fitted with a roping frame to allow for fast-roping from the cabin doorways.

658 Squadron Dauphin helicopter
AS365 N3 Dauphin operated by 658 Squadron
By Mark Harkin (commons file) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

658 Squadron Dauphin
658 Sqn Dauphin pictured at Birmingham-BHX, 19/07/16

Eurocopter AS365 N3 Specifications

Crew 1 pilot (+ 1 co-pilot if required)
Cargo capacity 8/9 passengers
Maximum speed 287 kph
Range 874 km
Max takeoff weight 4,200 kg

Previous 8 flight helicopters

Until 2009, 8 Flight, as the unit was then called, operated a fleet of 4 Agusta A109 and 3 Gazelle AH.1 helicopters.

8 Flight - Agusta A109

The first 2 A109s were spoils of war, captured from Argentine foces during the 1982 Falklands Conflict. A further 2 A109s were procured, bringing the 8 Flight A109 fleet up to 4.

Like the Dauphin currently used, 8 flight Agusta A109 helicopters were decked out in civilian colours for covert purposes. Unlike the Dauphins, 8 flight A109s tended to each be painted in a different colour scheme.

8 Flight A109s were thought to have been fitted with secure radios and a roping frame to support fast-roping.

agusta a109 helicopter
One of the Agusta A109 helicopters operated by 8 Flight.
By Flickr user Mark Harkin | used under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

2 agusta a109 helicopters
2 8 Flight Agusta A109 helicopters at Glasgow Heliport, February 2009
By Flickr user Mark Harkin | used under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Agusta A109 Specifications

Crew 1 pilot (+ co-pilot if required)
Cargo capacity 7 passengers
Maximum speed 285 kph
Range 965 km
Max takeoff weight 3000 kg

8 Flight - Gazelle AH.1

8 Flight operated a small flight of around 3-4 Gazelle AH.1 helicopters. It is not clear from open sources if 658 Squadron continues to operate the Gazelle in any capacity.

Gazelle helicopter
AAC Gazelle helicopter - helicopters like this supported SAS and 14 Company operations in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

Westland Gazelle AH.1 Specifications

Crew 1 pilot (+ co-pilot if required)
Cargo capacity 4 passengers
Maximum speed 310 kph
Range 670 km
Max takeoff weight 1800 kg

658 Squadron - Related Items

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