Aerospatiale SA.316/319 "Alouette III"


The Aerospatiale SA 319A/C Alouette III, manufactured by the company known today as Eurocopter, has been a spectacular aircraft almost from its first flight in 1959. This fine helicopter exhibits many superb flying qualities, but none is more impressive than the Alouette's high-altitude performance. Part of the credit for the success of Europe's best-known helicopter is due to the Turbomeca company, which was the first in the world to develop light turbine aero engines.

On the heels of the earlier Alouette II, 1,305 of which serve around the globe, the Alouette III has reached operators in numbers exceeding 1,500. In every climate, the Alouette is a versatile aircraft and military operators have used the Alouette III for light-attack and antisubmarine duties. However, it has become famous for flying life-saving missions in mountain ranges the world over.

R.Jackson "Helicopters. Military, Civilian, and Rescue Rotorcraft", 2005


The Aerospatiale Alouette III is an enlarged and most successful development of the Alouette II, with increased cabin capacity, improved equipment, more powerful turbine engine and generally enhanced performance. The prototype, designated SE 3160, was first flown on 28 February 1959, followed by the first production series known as SA 316A. In June 1960 an Alouette III with seven people aboard demonstrated its extraordinary performance by making landings and take-offs at an altitude of 4810m on Mont Blanc in the French Alps. Five months later the same Alouette III with two crew and a 250kg payload made landings and take-offs at an altitude of 6004m in the Himalayas - both hitherto unprecedented achievements for a helicopter. The SA 316A was built for the domestic and export market and, in June 1962, became subject to a licence-production agreement with HAL in India. The first Indian-assembled Alouette III was flown on 11 June 1965.

Various experimental developments followed, including an all-weather variant which made its initial flight on 27 April 1964. The subsequent SA 316B, first flown on 27 June 1968, featured strengthened main and tail rotor transmissions and was generally slightly heavier, but could carry more payload. It became the principal production version, with first deliveries made in 1970, and was an immediate export success. The Alouette III prototypes and the first two production series were powered by Turbomeca Artouste IIIB turboshaft engines, replaced by the Artouste IIID on the SA 316C, built in limited numbers only.

The Alouette III's cabin is more enclosed than that of the Alouette II, and can accommodate up to seven. All passenger seats are easily removable to provide an unobstructed cargo space. There is provision for an external sling for hauling loads up to 750kg or, for the air/sea rescue role, a hoist of 175kg capacity. Like most other light general-purpose helicopters the Alouette III can also be used for casualty evacuation, carrying two stretcher cases and two seated persons behind the pilot.

Experiments with the thermically more efficient and more economical Astazou turboshaft engine led to the SA 319B Alouette III Astazou, which is a direct development of the SA 316B. The first experimental SA 319B prototype was completed and flown in 1967, but full production did not start until 1973.

The Alouette III variants were even more successful on the international market than those of its predecessor, and by 1984 no less than 1,453 machines had been sold to 190 civil and military operators in 92 countries. In addition to licence-production by HAL at Bangalore in India (200) similar agreements were signed with ICA-Brasov in Romania (for 130) and Switzerland (for 60).

D.Donald "The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft", 1997


Based around the successful Alouette II but with an improved fuselage design allowing for six passengers and a more powerful 410kW Turbomeca Artouste III turboshaft. The Alouette III first flew in February 1959 and incorporated an increased diameter rotor and strengthened dynamics to compensate for the additional power. This variant was as much a success as the earlier Alouette II and was also sold around the world. Used in both the utility and armed roles, a more powerful version was developed in 1965 by fitting an Astazou XII power-plant giving increased performance for less fuel burn. The Alouette III was built under licence by India and Romania.

P.Allen "The Helicopter", 1996

SE.3160 Alouette III

Redesigned Alouette II with all-metal monocoque fuselage, fully enclosed seven-seat cabin and fixed tricycle u/c, powered by one 870/550shp Turbomeca Artouste IIIB. Prot. F-ZWVQ FF 28 Feb. 1959.

SA.316A Alouette III

New designation for SE.3160 revised in 1968.

SA.316B Alouette III

SA.316A with strengthened transmission and 100kg TOGW increase.

IAR-316B Alouette III

SA.316B built in Romania by IAR.

SA.316C Alouette III

SA.316B fitted with a 870/660shp Artouste HID turboshaft.

IAR-317 Airfox

Light attack helicopter prototype built in Romania by IAR.


Alouette III with stepped windshield and nose-mounted 20mm canon and external missile points. Prot FF 24 June 1964.

SA.3180 Alouette

Alouette II fitted with 450shp Turbomeca Artouste II Astazou turbine for high-altitude operation. Prot. F-WHHF FF 31 Jan. 1961.

SA.318C Alouette Astazou

New designation for SE.3180 revised in 1967.

SA.319 Alouette III

SA.316 fitted with 600shp Turbomeca Astazou XIV turboshaft. Prot F-ZWVQ.

SA.319B Alouette III

Production version of SA.319 for military and civil users.

HSA.316B Chetak

SA.316B manufactured by Hindustan in India. 200 built.


SA.316B manufactured by ICA-Brasov in Romania.

SA.316B Alouette III

SA.316B manufactured by FFA in Switzerland. 60 built.

Basically, the SE.3160 Alouette III is an enlarged and more powerful development of the Alouette II, with an Artouste turboshaft engine and a strengthened transmission system. The cabin is enlarged to accommodate a pilot and 6 passengers, and the tailboom is an enclosed, semi-monocoque fuselage. First flown on 28 February 1959, the Alouette III embodied several of the features seen during the preceding two years in earlier Sud-Est designs. First of these to fly, on 10 May 1957, was the SE.3131 Gouverneur (F-WIEA), which was basically an Alouette II with an Artouste engine, covered fuselage and executive cabin seating 5 occupants including the pilot. The SE.3140, flown on 16 May 1957 was fundamentally a Turmo-engined Alouette II and the SE.3150 an Artouste-powered development of it.

Series production of the Alouette III began in 1961, after two prototype and two pre-series machines had been built, and the aircraft received domestic type approval on 12 December 1961. By mid-May 1968, four hundred and ninety French-built Alouette Ill's had been ordered, and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. have a licence to build a substantial number for the Indian forces. Most Alouette Ill's are for military customers: the Swiss Army (twenty-four) and Royal Danish Navy (eight), and the air forces of Australia (fourteen), Burma (thirteen), Burundi (one), Cambodia (two), Congolese Republic (five), Dominican Republic (one), Eire (three), Ethiopia (five), Hong Kong (two), India (thirty-seven), Ivory Coast (two), Jordan (seven), Lebanon (seven), Malaysia (twenty-three), Mexico (four), Nepal (one), the Netherlands (seventy-seven), Pakistan (eight), Peru (four), Portugal (fifty-four), Rhodesia (eight), Rwanda (two). South Africa (fifty-four), Tunisia (four), Venezuela (twenty) and Vietnam (two). In France, the ALAT is the prime user, though the Armee de I'Air has three, the Aeronavale has sixteen aboard the carrier Jeanne d'Arc, and others are used by the Gendarmerie.

Duties of the Alouette III include those of tactical or assault transport, flying crane (with 750 kg external sling load) or casualty evacuation (with 2 passengers and a stretchers carried inside the cabin). A close-support version, the SA.3164 Alouette III Armee, was flown on 24 June 1964. This carried a 20mm cannon in front of the left-hand seat, and can be armed with 7.92mm machine-guns, pods of 18 or 36 HVAR rockets or Nord AS.11 or AS.12 anti-tank missiles on mountings on each side of the cabin. A naval version with a mooring harpoon and all-weather capability is being developed for anti-submarine and other shipboard roles.

K.Munson "Helicopters And Other Rotorcraft Since 1907", 1968

The Alouette III is derived from the military Alouette II but with a larger cabin and fully streamlined fuselage with the exception of the turbine.

The accommodation is sufficient for a pilot and six passengers. Baggage can be carried in holds on either side of the centre section. The SA 316B can also carry two stretchers and two crew besides the pilot. The passenger seats can be removed for freight work and an external sling will take loads up to 750kg. There are four doors, two rearward sliding and two hinged for the pilot and front passenger or co-pilot.

In 1964 an all-weather version was announced with a gyrometric compass, vertical gyro, three-axis attitude and heading indicator, radio altimeter, Doppler radar and automatic pilot.

The SA 316B is also produced under licence in Switzerland and Romania, and in India where it is called the Chetak.

In 1967 Aerospatiale produced an improved version of the Alouette III which was designated SA 319B or Astazou. It was externally very similar to the 316, but had an 870shp Turbomeca Astazou XIV turboshaft engine which was derated to 600shp. The more powerful engine allowed the SA 319B to carry a heavier load and reach a top speed at sea level of 220km/h, as opposed to the 316, which could only reach 210km/h. Accommodation is similar to the 316. The SA 319B has an increased thermal efficiency and a 25% reduction in fuel consumption over the 316.

Bill Gunston "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Commercial Aircraft", 1980

The Alouette III, developed in the mid fifties, is a streamlined, rather elegant aircraft with an extensively-glazed cabin to accommodate seven. The dynamic components are derived from its predecessors and it has a 870shp Artouste III turbine derated to 550shp. The usual skid landing gear has been replaced by a fixed tricycle undercarriage.

The prototype made its first flight on 28 February 1959 and immediately aroused the interest of the French forces, who needed a fast, well-armed machine for the war in Algeria. Various weapons fits were examined and, apart from a number of fixed or flexible weapons, provision was made for the installation of wire-guided missiles.

Thus equipped and with a maximum speed of approximately 210km/h, the Alouette III suited the armed forces' requirements very well. After it had been in production for three years, Sud-Aviation built a prototype expressly designed for armed missions, with a 20mm cannon in the redesigned nose. However, its performance was inadequate for a combat helicopter and, moreover, by that time the war in Algeria had ended.

At the end of 1970, the SA.316B version with strengthened transmission was introduced, and in 1972 the SA.316C went into production with the new 870shp Artouste HID turbine derated to 600shp. Another variant which adopted an Astazou XIV turbine with the same power rating was designated the SA.319B. This last version, which was in production in the seventies, had much higher capabilities with a 25 per cent reduction in specific fuel consumption. Construction of the SA.316B and SA.319B continued for many years in France and was also extended to India, Pakistan, Romania and Switzerland, where a number of both civil and military models have been manufactured under license. By spring 1976, over 1350 Alouette III helicopters had been built and sold to 120 operators in 69 countries.

The helicopter was also adapted for naval use and was equipped with better navigational aids — Doppler radar, a navigation computer, autopilot and two homing torpedoes for ASW. In the antiship role, it carried two missiles.

G.Apostolo "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Helicopters", 1984

Technical data for Aerospatiale SA.316B "Alouette III"

Crew: 1, passengers: 7, engine: 1 x Turbomeca Artouste IIIB turboshaft, rated at 649kW, main rotor diameter: 11.02m, length with rotors turning: 10.03m, height: 3.0m, take-off weight: 2200kg, empty weight: 1143kg, max speed: 210km/h, cruising speed: 185km/h, service ceiling: 3200m, range with max fuel: 540km

Alouette III gunship