The Alouette II is a light helicopter originally manufactured by Sud Aviation and later Aérospatiale, both of France. The Alouette II was the first production helicopter to use a gas turbine instead of a conventional heavier piston engine.
It was mostly used for military purposes in observation, photography, air/sea rescue, liaison and training but it has also carried anti-tank missiles and homing torpedoes. As a civilian helicopter it was used for casualty evacuation (with two external stretcher panniers), crop-spraying and as a flying crane (with a 500 kg external sling load).
Although Sud-Est's previous helicopter design, the SE 3120 Alouette, broke helicopter speed and distance records in July 1953, it was too complex an aircraft to market successfully. With the records falling, the French government started showing interest but with their financial backing the state gave an ultimatum that within 2 years a helicopter had to be in production otherwise all activities around rotary wings would cease. SNCASE came up with 7 turbo-engine helicopters designs: X.310A - X.310G. Earlier Joseph Szydlowski, the founder of Turboméca had successfully managed to develop the Artouste, a 260 hp (190 kW) single shaft turbine engine derived from his Orédon turbine. The X.310G design was chosen and together with the Artouste engine was fast tracked towards production as the SE 3130 Alouette II.
The SE 3130, first flew on March 12 1955 and within 3 months a pre-series Alouette II flown by Jean Boulet set a new helicopter altitude record of 8,209 m on June 6 then on June 13 pushed the record even further to 10,984 m.
The Alouette II made the news on July 3 1956 when it became the first helicopter to perform a mountain-rescue by evacuating a mountaineer who had suffered from cardiac arrest at over 4,000 m and again on January 3 1957 the Alouette II was called upon to rescue the crew of a crashed Sikorsky S-58 which was searching for missing mountaineers Jean Vincendon and François Henry on Mont Blanc.
The Alouette II gained its domestic certificate of airworthiness on 2 May 1957.
Production started initially to fulfil orders from the French armed forces and civilian customers. It made military history by being the first helicopter worldwide to be equipped with anti-tank missiles (the Nord SS.11s), and by the time production ended in 1975 with over 1500 Alouette II's had been built and in use in over 80 countries including 47 armed forces. It is also licence built in Brazil, Sweden, India and in the United States.
Indian Hindustan Aeronautics Limited license-built SA 315B Lamas, called Cheetahs in Indian service, regularly deployed at 7500 meters (24,600 ft) to forward observation outposts and air bases of the Indian Air Force in the Himalaya mountain ranges.
Specifications (Alouette II)
Published - July 2009
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