SA3160/ SA316/ SA319 B "Alouette III":
Encouraged by the success of the Alouette II – the very first turbine-powered helicopter to be produced in series – Sud Aviation went on to develop a more powerful and highly streamlined seven-seat machine with excellent visibility, capable of carrying two stretchers.
The Alouette III made its maiden flight on 28 February 1959 with Jean Boulet at the controls. The programme was managed by René Mouille. In June, the prototype landed at an altitude of over 4,000 m in the Mont Blanc range and, in October 1960, at over 6,000 m in the Himalayas. On board were the pilot Jean Boulet, two passengers, and 250 kg of equipment. The innovative feature of the helicopter was its gas turbine engine: the Artouste, rated originally at 880 horsepower, but derated to 550 horsepower. The version with the more powerful Astazou gas turbine engine made its first flight on 10 July 1967.
The first two customers of this version, which was certified on 15 December 1961, came from outside France, although the French Army placed an order for 50 Alouette IIIs in June 1961.
The Alouette III was specifically designed to fly at high altitudes and quickly earned a well-merited reputation for performing rescue missions. It was the first helicopter with a real multi-mission capability and performances matched to its missions, whether in its civil or military version.
Although the last and 1437th Alouette III left the Marignane assembly lines in 1979, close to 500 more were to be manufactured under license in Romania, India and Switzerland. The last Alouette III was delivered in 1985. Even today, there are still several dozen Alouette IIIs operating in about 30 countries.
In 1959, Sud Aviation developed a helicopter in the six metric-ton class, the Frelon (SA320). A distinguishing characteristic of the Frelon was its short tail boom in relation to the overall length of the airframe. The finalisation work on the aircraft proved to be very complex, and the Frelon programme was quickly abandoned to give way to a programme for a new, heavier machine - the Super Frelon (SA321). Two Frelon prototypes were built.
The programme was placed under the direction of Chief Engineer René Mouille, and on 7 December 1962, the SA321, a 13 metric-tonne helicopter with a rotor system based on American technology, performed its first flight. The flight crew was made up of Jean Boulet, Roland Coffignot, Jean Maris Besse and Joseph Turchini. In July of 1963, the helicopter broke three speed records for all categories combined, including the record for a 100 km closed course at a speed of 334.280 km/h.
The use of three turbine engines was a first in the industry. And the civil version, certified in October 1967, would be the first series-production helicopter of this type to receive certification. A Greek aviation company would use the aircraft in 1968 and 1969 to transport passengers between Athens and the Greek islands. When the Chinese purchased 13 machines, the country started to manufacture copies of the Super Frelon known as the Zhi 8 beginning in 1985. But the manufacturers of the SA321 deemed its profitability to be insufficient, thus shortening its career.
A total of 106 Super Frelons would be manufactured. The French Navy received the first military version of the helicopter in 1966, and several other countries placed orders. Unfortunately, four of the most important customers would encounter various problems and eventually be subjected to embargoes, and the helicopter would not have the illustrious career that had been hoped for. Production stopped in 1981.