#1523CU Islander AL1
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Squadron Prints Lithograph No. 1523CU - ZG847, Islander Al Mk1, 651 Squadron, 5 Regiment, Army Air Corps. No.651 Squadron was formed at RAF Old Sarum on 1 August 1941 and was the first of the RAFâ€™s Air Observation Post (AOP) Squadrons. Equipped initially with a mixture of Taylorcraft Plus C and D, Piper Cub and Stinson Voyager, the squadron was largely manned by pilots and observers from the Royal Artillery. Following training in Northern Ireland and the south west of Scotland during the summer of 1942, the squadron was sent to North Africa in October 1942. Initially operating the Auster MkI, a UK-built version of the Taylorcraft Plus D, the squadron flew various marks of the Auster during the course of the war, operating from temporary locations near the battlefields of North Africa and later in Italy, undertaking artillery observation and reconnaissance tasks. In May 1945, after the German surrender, the Squadron flew to Klagenfurt in Austria. The following month, the squadron was sent to Palestine on post-war peace-keeping duties. A return to North Africa followed in 1948 when the squadron moved to Tripoli. In June 1950, one of the squadronâ€™s two Flights, no.1910, was dispatched by sea to Eritrea on infantry support and reconnaissance duties and remained there until September 1952. 651 Squadronâ€™s other Flight at that time, no.1908, remained in Libya, but was sent to Iraq in 1951 in response to the Persian Oil dispute. Now operating the Auster AOP Mk6 and the dual-control T Mk7, 1908 Flight moved to Egypt in October 1951 to carry out reconnaissance tasks in the Suez Canal area. Prior to 651 Squadronâ€™s disbandment in November 1955, the squadronâ€™s two flights were given independent status. The squadron officially disbanded in Egypt on 1 November 1955 and on the same day, 657 Squadron was re-numbered 651 Squadron at Middle Wallop. The squadron inherited no.1906 Flight and its Bristol Sycamore HC Mk11 helicopters. The squadron took delivery of its first Saro Skeeter AOP Mk10 in January 1957. 651 Squadron ceased being an RAF unit when the Army Air Corps was officially established on 1 September 1957. In April 1958 the squadron moved to RAF Debden in Essex, whilst still maintaining a presence in Northern Ireland with its Auster AOP Mk6s. This presence was later to be enhanced in February 1960 with the introduction of the Skeeter AOP Mk12. In March 1960, the squadron moved back to Middle Wallop, and later that year added the de Havilland Beaver AL Mk1 to its inventory. By 1962, 651 Squadron was the Army Air Corps largest aviation unit with five Flights operating the Auster AOP Mk9, Skeeter AOP Mk12 and Beaver AL Mk1. The Skeeter was replaced the following year by the Westland Scout AH Mk1. In 1968, the squadron became part of 1 Regiment Army Air Corps based at Verden, West Germany together with 657 and 658 Squadrons, operating both the Scout AH Mk1 and Sioux AH Mk1 in support of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR). In late 1971, the squadron relinquished its Sioux helicopters to 657 and 658 Squadrons whilst 651 Squadron became the sole operator of the Scout within 1 Regiment. In September 1978, 1 Regiment moved to Hildesheim in preparation for the arrival of the squadronâ€™s first Westland Lynx AH Mk1 later that year. By 1981 the squadron was operating a mixture of TOW-equipped Lynx AH Mk1 and Gazelle AH Mk1. The squadron carried out regular deployments to Northern Ireland and the Falkland Islands throughout the 1980s, before upgrading to the Lynx AH Mk7 in the early 1990s. Following the reunification of East and West Germany, 1 Regiment transferred from Hildeshiem to the Princess Royal Barracks, formerly RAF GÃ¼tersloh, in April 1993. In 1996, the squadronâ€™s Lynx deployed to Bosnia, taking part in Operation RESOLUTE on IFOR duties. In 2000, the squadron relocated to the UK, becoming the first Army Air Corps squadron to operate the Apache AH Mk1 in a development and trials role, before disbanding in April 2003 when evaluation ceased. 651 Squadron reformed again in April 2006 at RAF Odiham flying the Britten-Norman Defender AL Mk1, taking over the ISTAR role from 1 Flight and saw regular deployments to Iraq. In August 2008, the squadron merged with 1 Flight, creating a mixed fixed-wing squadron within 5 Regiment, based at Aldergrove, operating both the Defender AL Mk1 and Islander AL Mk1, as illustrated here. A Defender T Mk3 was delivered in September 2008 and Defender AL Mk2s improved the squadronâ€™s capabilities when they began to be delivered from late 2008. The squadron undertook its first deployment to Afghanistan in November 2010.