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SA 316 / SA 319 Alouette III
An Alouette III of the 22S wing of the French Navy on the landing pad of Lanvéoc base
Role Light utility helicopter
Manufacturer Sud Aviation
First flight 28 February 1959
Introduction 1960
Status Active
Primary users French Armed Forces
Indian Armed Forces
Portuguese Air Force
South African Air Force (historical)
Swiss Air Force (historical)
Produced 1961-1985
Number built 2,000+
Developed from Aérospatiale Alouette II
Developed into Aérospatiale Gazelle

The Aérospatiale Alouette III (French pronunciation: ​[alwɛt], Lark) is a single-engine, light utility helicopter developed by Sud Aviation. It was manufactured by Aérospatiale of France, and under licence by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in India as Hal Chetak and Industria Aeronautică Română in Romania.

The Alouette III is the successor to the Alouette II, being larger and having more seating


The first version of the Alouette III, the SE 3160 prototype, first flew on 28 February 1959. Production of the SA 316A (SE 3160) began in 1961 and remained in production until 1968, when it was replaced by the SA 316B. The last and 1437th Alouette III left the Marignane assembly lines in 1979, when the main production line in France was closed down. The last Alouette III from Aérospatiale was delivered in 1985.

Over 500 units were manufactured under licence in Romania, India and Switzerland. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) obtained a licence to build Alouette IIIs as the HAL Chetak in India. Over 300 units were produced by HAL as it continued to independently update and indigenize the helicopter over the years, and a variant is still in production though in diminishing volumes. Versions of the Alouette III were also either licence-built or assembled by IAR in Romania (as the IAR 316), F+W Emmen in Switzerland, and by Fokker and Lichtwerk in the Netherlands.

Production numbers are as follows:

  • France: 1453
  • India: 300+ (Still in production)
  • Romania: 200+
  • Switzerland: 60

Operational history


The Argentine Naval Aviation purchased 14 helicopters. One SA316B was on board the ARA General Belgrano when she was sunk by the HMS Conqueror's torpedoes during the Falklands War with Great Britain in 1982 and a second one played an important role during the Invasion of South Georgia. On 2 December 2010, the last example was retired at a ceremony held at BAN Comandante Espora, Bahía Blanca.[1][2]

Danish Navy Alouette III on HDMS Beskytteren in 1977


From April 1964 to 1967, three machines were delivered from France for local assembly in Australia, and were used by Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) at the Woomera Rocket Range for light passenger transport and recovery of missile parts after test launches at the Range.


Eight machines were delivered to the Royal Danish Navy from 1962 to 1967. They were primarily tasked with SAR and reconnaissance in support of the navy's Arctic patrol ships. In 1982 they were replaced by the Westland Lynx


French Navy Alouette III on the frigate La Motte-Picquet

The Alouette III entered in service with the French Armed forces in 1960, the French Army ordered 50 Alouette IIIs in June 1961. In June 1960, an Alouette III carrying seven people made take-offs and landings on Mont Blanc in the French Alps at an altitude of 4,810 meters (15,780 feet), an unprecedented altitude for such activities by a helicopter.[3] The same helicopter again demonstrated the type's extraordinary performance in November 1960 by making take-offs and landings with a crew of two and a payload of 250 kg (551 lbs) in the Himalayas at an altitude of 6,004 meters (19,698 feet).[3] In June 2004, the Alouette III was retired from the French Air Force after 32 years of successful service, being replaced by the Eurocopter EC 355 Ecureuil 2.

The French Navy still uses the Alouette III for Search and Rescue and Logistics missions.


At Baldonnel on 21 September 2007 the Alouette III was retired from the Irish Air Corps. During 44 years of successful service, the Irish Alouette III fleet amassed over 77,000 flying hours. As well as routine military missions, the aircraft undertook some 1,717 search-and-rescue missions, saving 542 lives and flew a further 2,882 air ambulance flights. The oldest of the Alouettes, 195, is kept in 'rotors running' condition for the Air Corps Museum.[4]


Hindustan Aeronautics Limited built over 300 units of the helicopter under licence as the HAL Chetak. They were primarily in service with the Indian Armed Forces in training, transport, CASEVAC (Casualty Evacuation), communications and liaison roles. The Chetak is being replaced by HAL Dhruv in the armed forces. An option to re-engine the HAL Chetak with the Turbomeca TM 333-2B engine for high-altitude operations in the Himalayas was considered, but not pursued.

In 1986 the Government constituted the Army's Aviation Corps and most Chetak operating in AOP Squadrons were transferred from the Air Force on 1 November 1986. The Air Force continues to fly armed Chetaks in the anti-tank role as well as for CASEVAC and general duties.

HAL also exported Chetak helicopters to Namibia and Suriname. India has also donated used Chetak helicopters to other countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal.


Pakistan purchased 35 Alouette III helicopters and used them in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, mainly for liaison and VIP-transport. Two Alouette IIIs of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) were shot down during the war.[5]


Portuguese paratroopers jump from an Alouette III in an air assault operation in Angola in the early 1960s.

Portugal was the third largest user of the Alouette III, with a total of 142 units acquired for the Portuguese Air Force. Starting in 1963, Portugal was the first country to use the Alouette III in combat, during the Overseas Wars in Angola, Mozambique and Portuguese Guinea, where it proved its qualities. The Portuguese Alouette III were mainly used for air assault and medevac operations.

Besides the basic transport version (code named canibal, plural canibais), Portugal used a special version of the Alouette III with a MG 151 20 mm autocannon mounted in the rear in order to fire from the left side door. This version was designated helicanhão (heli-cannon) and code named lobo mau (big bad wolf).

In the Overseas Wars, the Portuguese usually launched air assaults with groups of six or seven Alouette III: five or six canibais - each carrying usually five paratropers or commandos - and a lobo mau heli-cannon. The Portuguese practice was the canibais approaching the ground, but not landing, instead staying hovering in the air, launching the troops to the ground from there. The famous images of Portuguese paratroopers or commandos jumping from Alouette III helicopters, from an height of two or three meters from the ground, became some of the most characteristics of the War. The landing of the troops from the canibais was covered by the lobo mau. While the troops performed the ground assault, the canibais moved away from the combat zone, staying the lobo mau in the support of ground forces, destroying the enemy resistance and concentration points with the fire of its 20 mm autocannon. Finished the ground combat, the canibais returning, in a first wave collecting the wounded and subsequently collecting the troops.

Presently, the Portuguese Air Force still maintains a number of Alouette III in service, mainly used for training and SAR. They also equip the aerobatic team Rotores de Portugal.

South Africa

The Alouette III helicopter served for 44 years and flew more than 346,000 hours in the South African Air Force (SAAF). The official withdrawal of Alouette III in SAAF took place on 30 June 2006 at Swartkop in Pretoria.[6]

The SAAF received 118 Alouette III helicopters between 1962 and the late 1970s. They were used extensively throughout the Bush War.


In 2004, the Swiss Armed Forces announced the retirement of the Alouette III from front-line service by 2006 and entirely by 2010.


The Venezuelan Air Force retired its Alouette IIIs in the late 1990s.


  • SA 316A : the first production version. Original designation SE 3160.
  • SA 316B : powered by a 425 kW (570 shp) Turboméca Artouste IIIB turboshaft engine, with strengthened main and tail rotor for greater performance. The SA 316B was built under licence in India as the HAL Chetak, and again under licence in Romania as the IAR 316.
  • HAL Chetak : Indian production version of the SA 316B.
  • IAR 316 : Romanian production version of the SA 316B.
  • The SA 319B was a direct development of the SA 316B, it was powered with a 649 kW (870 shp) Turboméca Astazou XIV turboshaft engine, but it was derated to 447 kW (660 hp).
  • The SA 316C was powered by a Turbomeca Artouste IIID turboshaft engine. The SA 316C was only built in small numbers.
  • G-Car and K-Car : Helicopter gunship versions for the Rhodesian Air Force.[7] The G-Car was armed with two side-mounted Browning .303 or a single 7.62mm MAG machine guns. The K-Car was armed with a 20 mm MG 151 cannon, fitted inside the cabin, firing from the port side of the helicopter.
  • SA.3164 Alouette-Canon: Modified in 1964 as a gunship version armed with a 20mm gun in the nose and external hardpoints for missiles mounted on each side of the fuselage. Only one prototype was built.[8]
  • IAR 317 Airfox: A Romanian helicopter gunship project based on the IAR 316. Only three prototypes were ever built.
  • Atlas XH-1 Alpha: A Two-seat attack helicopter project. It was used in the development of the Denel AH-2 Rooivalk.

When used as an aerial ambulance, the Alouette III can accommodate a pilot, two medical attendants and two stretcher patients.


Current military operators


Austrian Alouette III over the Alps

 Burkina Faso
 Democratic Republic of the Congo

HAL Chetak from Indian Navy's INS Rana.

 Ivory Coast

An Alouette III used by the Air Wing of the Armed Forces of Malta during a flying display.


Pakistan Naval Air Arm Alouette III on board PNS Tippu Sultan at Portsmouth in 2005


Portuguese Rotores de Portugal aerobatic team's Alouette III helicopters

 South Korea

Former military operators

Argentine Navy Alouette III aboard USS Bunker Hill

 Abu Dhabi


Circa 1980, a Royal Danish Navy's Alouette III on a Hvidbjørnen-class inspection vessel.

Flag of Denmark.svg Denmark
 Dominican Republic
 El Salvador
  • Guinean Air Force[24]
 Hong Kong
File:Sa316b 212 3opswg.jpg

Irish Air Corps SA-316B Alouette III, 212 from 3 Operations Wing at RNAS Yeovilton in July 2006


Retired Alouette III (SA316B) of the Republic of Singapore Air Force on static display at RSAF Museum.

 Saudi Arabia
 South Africa
 South Vietnam

Aérospatiale SA 316 Alouette III of the Swiss Air Force

 Upper Volta
 FR Yugoslavia

Specifications (SA 316B)


Close-up of the turbine of an Alouette III

Data from Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1976-77 [51]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Capacity: 5 passengers
  • Length: 10.03 m (32 ft 10¾ in)
  • Main rotor diameter: 11.02 m (36 ft 1¾ in)
  • Height: 3.00 m (9 ft 10 in)
  • Main rotor area: 95.38 m2 (1026 ft2)
  • Empty weight: 1,143 kg (2,520 lb)
  • Gross weight: 2,200 kg (4,850 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Turbomeca Artouste IIIB turboshaft, 649 kW (870 shp) derated to 425 kW (570 hp)


  • Maximum speed: 210 km/h (130[52] mph)
  • Cruising speed: 185 km/h (115 mph)
  • Range: 540 km (335 miles)
  • Service ceiling: 3,200 m (10,500 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 4.3 m/s (850 ft/min)

See also


  1. Adiós Alouette
  2. "Argentine Navy's Final Alouette III Retired". Key Publishing Ltd. March 2011. p. 24. ISSN 0955-7091. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Donald, p. 22.
  4. New Wings for the Irish Air Corps
  6. Alouette III final flight
  7. Wood, J.R.T (2009). Counter-strike From the Sky: The Rhodesian All-arms Fireforce in the War in the Bush 1974–1980. 30° South Publishers. ISBN 1-920143-33-5. 
  9. 9.00 9.01 9.02 9.03 9.04 9.05 9.06 9.07 9.08 9.09 9.10 9.11 9.12 9.13 9.14 9.15 9.16 9.17 9.18 9.19 9.20 9.21 9.22 9.23 9.24 9.25 9.26 9.27 9.28 "World Air Forces 2013". Flightglobal Insight. 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  10. "World Air Forces 1975". p. 291. Retrieved 23 March 2013. 
  11. "Comando de Aviacion Naval Argentina Alouette III". Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  12. "World Air Forces 1983". p. 327. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  13. "World Air Forces 1983". p. 328. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  14. "World Air Forces 1987". p. 44. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  15. "World Air Forces 1975". p. 293. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  16. "Armada de Chile Alouette III". Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  17. "Kongelige Danske Marine Alouette III". Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  18. "World Air Forces 1987". p. 50. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  19. "Armada Ecuatoriana Alouette III". Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  20. "Fuerza Aerea Salvadoreña Alouette III". Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  21. "Armée de L'air SA 316". Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  22. "World Air Forces 1983". p. 338. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  23. "Securite Civile Alouette III". Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  24. "World Air Forces 1987". p. 59. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  25. "World Air Forces 1983 pg .346". Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  26. "Royal Hong Kong Aux. Air Force Alouette III". Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  27. "World Air Forces 1983". p. 352. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  28. "Aer Chór na hÉireann Alouette III". Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  29. "World Air Forces 1983". p. 358. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  30. "World Air Forces 1983". p. 359. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 "World Air Forces 1987". p. 68. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  32. "World Air Forces 1983". p. 360. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  33. 33.0 33.1 "World Air Forces 1987". p. 72. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 "World Air Forces 1987". p. 73. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  35. "World Air Forces 1987". p. 74. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 "World Air Forces 1987". p. 77. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  37. "World Air Forces 1971". p. 936. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  38. "World Air Forces 1987". p. 80. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  39. "World Air Forces 1975". p. 308. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  40. "World Air Forces 1990". p. 68. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  41. "Republic of Singapore Air Force Alouette III". Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  42. "Suid-Afrikaanse Lugmag Alouette III". Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  43. "Military Helicopter Market 1971". p. 581. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  44. "Ejercito del aire Alouette III". Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  45. "Fuerzas Aeromóviles del Ejército de Tierra Alouette III". Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  46. "schweizer luftwaffe Alouette III". Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  47. Volta "World Air Forces 1983". p. 379. Volta. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  48. "Fuerza Aerea de Venezuela Alouette III". Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  49. "World Air Forces 1987". p. 67. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  50. "World Air Forces 1987". p. 106. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  51. Taylor 1976, p. 39.
  52. at sea level
  • Donald, David, ed. The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1997. ISBN 0-7607-0592-5.

External links

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