- Aircraft History, Specification and Information -
Aérospatiale Alouette III
SE.3160 Alouette 3 - V-251 - Swiss Air Force
SE.3160 Alouette III
V-251 (sn 127/1073) Swiss Air Force
Photo taken May 14, 2004
Grenchen Airport- Switzerland (ZHI / LSZG)
Photo © Marcel Siegenthaler

The Aérospatiale Alouette III (French pronunciation: [alwɛt], Lark) is a single-engine, light utility helicopter developed by Sud Aviation and later manufactured by Aérospatiale of France. The Alouette III is the successor to the Alouette II, being larger and having more seating. Originally powered by a Turbomeca Artouste IIIB turboshaft engine, the Alouette III is recognised for its mountain rescue capabilities and adaptability.

Aerospatiale SA-316B Alouette III Helicopter - 214 - Ireland Air Force / Irish Airforce - Liege Bierset Airport, Belgium (LGG/EBLG)
Aerospatiale SA-316B Alouette III
214 (cn 214)
Ireland Air Force / Irish Airforce
Photo taken May 12, 2007
Liege Bierset Airport, Belgium (LGG / EBLG)
Photo Copyright & Thanks to
Roel van der Velpen - MST-Aviation
F+W Emmen SE-3160 Alouette III - V-270 - Swiss Air Force - Aerospatiale Alouette III
F+W Emmen SE-3160 Alouette III
V-270 (sn 146/1092)
Swiss Air Force
Photo taken October 13, 2005
Meiringen, Switzerland (LSMM)
Photo Copyright & Thanks to
Emiel Bonte
Sud SE-3160 Alouette III - HB-ZEQ - Air Glaciers - Aerospatiale Alouette III - Lauterbrunnen Heliport, Switzerland
Sud SE-3160 Alouette III
HB-ZEQ (sn 1152)
Photo taken June 18, 2005
Lauterbrunnen Heliport, Switzerland
Photo Copyright & Thanks to
Pierre Gillard - www.alouettelama.com
Aerospatiale SA-316B Alouette III Helicopter - M-1 / OT-ZPA - Belgium Navy
Aerospatiale SA-316B Alouette III
M-1 / OT-ZPA (cn 1812)
Belgium Navy
Photo taken August 22, 2007
Off-Airport - Oostduinkerke, Belgium
Photo Copyright & Thanks to
Soetkin Vandecandelaere
Aerospatiale SA-316B Alouette III Helicopter - F-ZBAN - France Securite Civile - Alpe d'Huez Altiport, France (AHZ/LFHU)
Aerospatiale SA-316B Alouette III
F-ZBAN (sn 1115)
France - Securite Civile
Photo taken July 15, 2007
Alpe d'Huez Altiport, France (AHZ / LFHU)
Photo Copyright & Thanks to
Ivan Brocot
Aerospatiale SA-316B Alouette III - Portugal Air Force - 19372 - Portugal Air Show Evora, Portugal (LPEV)
Aerospatiale SA-316B Alouette III
19372 (sn 1802)
Portugal Air Force
Cockpit view of Portugal Air Force Alouette III at a static display during the Portugal Air Show
Photo taken September 17, 2005
Evora, Portugal (LPEV)
Photo Copyright & Thanks to
Jorge M A Ruivo
Sud SE-3160 Alouette III Rotorcraft - Air-Glaciers - HB-XOE - Helicopter - Sion Sitten Airport, Switzerland (SIR/LSGS/LSMS)
Sud SE-3160 Alouette III
HB-XOE (cn 1019)
Photo taken June 09, 2007
Sion (- Sitten) Airport, Switzerland (SIR / LSGS / LSMS)
Photo Copyright & Thanks to
Aldo Bidini
F+W Emmen SE-3160 Alouette III Helicopter - V-254 - Switzerland Air Force / Swiss Airforce - Off-Airport Axalp Military Airshow, Switzerland
F+W Emmen SE-3160 Alouette III
V-254 (cn 130/1076)
Switzerland Air Force / Swiss Airforce
Photo taken October 11, 2007
Off-Airport - Axalp Military Airshow, Switzerland
Photo Copyright & Thanks to
Radim Spalek


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.

Operational history

The Alouette III entered in service with the French Armed forces in 1960. From April 1964-1967, 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.

Served in Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 when 2 planes of the PAF were lost in the war, and the Portuguese Colonial War, during 60's and 70's with large utilization in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea, where it proved its qualities.

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 was delivered in 1985. However close to 500 more were to be manufactured under license in Romania, India and Switzerland. HAL of India continues to licence-build Alouette IIIs as the Chetak. 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: 230
  • Switzerland: 60

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. In the same year, the Swiss Armed Forces announced the retirement of the Alouette III, from the front line by 2006, and entirely by 2010. Venezuelan Air forces retired their Alouette IIIs in the late 90s.

At Baldonnel 21 September 2007 the Alouette III was retired from the Irish Air Corps. During 44 years of successful service, the 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 currently being kept in 'rotors running' condition for the Air Corps Museum.

Combat 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 (Islas Malvinas) War with Great Britain in 1982 and a second one played an important role during the Invasion of South Georgia. The last one was deactivated on December 3, 2010.


The French Army needed a fast, well-armed machine for the war in Algeria. So during this war ALAT (Aviation Légère de l'Armée de Terre) used Alouette IIIs armed with Nord AS.10 and AS.11 wire-guided antitank missiles. The missiles were first used against guerillas who had holed up in heavily fortified mountain caves. Alouette IIIs could carry four missiles each, often operating in mixed formations with gun-armed Alouette IIIs.


Alouette III was built under licence and named Chetak by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. Primarily in service with the IAF in the training, light transport, casevac(Casualty Evacuation), communications and liaison roles.

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.

The HAL Chetak is scheduled to be replaced by HAL's Advanced Light Helicopter. An option remains to re-engine the HAL Chetak with the Turbomeca TM 333-2B engine.

In 2009, India sold one Chetak helicopter to Namibia.


In 2009, India sold two of their Chetak and one Cheetah helicopters to Namibia, for a total price of $10 million.


Simultaneously with acquisition of Mirage IIIs Pakistan purchased 35 Alouette III helicopters and used them in the Indo-Pak War of 1971, mainly for liaison and VIP-transport. Two were shot down in the 1971 Pakistan-India war.


Guinea Bissau
The war in Guinea Bissau began in earnest in August 1961. From 1967 the situation changed considerably, when the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), officially provided its full support to the PAIGC, de-facto recognising this organisation as an official representation of Guinea Bissau. The Portuguese reaction to these developments was an intensive campaign of building schools, hospitals, housing, and roads, in an effort to improve the living conditions of the local population. Until then, communications were almost non-existent in Guinea. To improve the means of communication, 12 SA.316B Alouette III helicopters were permanently deployed, in order to support the civilians. Several of these helicopters were equipped with 20mm cannons, carried in the rear cabin and fired over the side.

Portugal used their Alouettes against guerrillas in Africa. During the 60's and 70's Portugal used large numbers of helicopters in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea, where Alouettes proved its qualities for use in dusty and hot flying conditions. The versatile Alouette III bore the brunt of COIN operations in Africa: Wherever the troops were sent, the helicopters led or transported them, flew reconnaissance and liaison, CASEVAC/MEDEVAC and other missions. The Portuguese Air Force would be the first to use them with French 20mm cannons.

The Portuguese needed some time until they learned how to make best use of their Alouettes. They started regularly sitting five of six armed troops aboard, in addition to the crew of two, despite the fact that the Alouette III was built to carry only four passengers. This placed especially the gearbox of the helicopters under strain, causing quite some maintenance problems in return.

After some time the French technicians assigned to FAP instructed the Portuguese to be more careful, and the practice was changed so the number of troops usually transported was reduced. This was causing some problems especially if there were casualties to recover, but there was no way around. The lack of facilities for evacuation of casualties (CASEVAC), however, was one of the main reasons for the low morale among the Portuguese soldiers. The FAP personnel was also highly praised and most of the successes during the war in Angola were achieved either by elite units or the air force. However, the Portuguese pilots had no means to communicate with ground troops: even the most elementary equipment – like smoke-grenades for marking targets, and mirrors – was not available, and the troops were not trained to communicate with pilots.

Rhodesia and South Africa, both of which were concerned about their own future in the case of the Portuguese defeat gave military support. They initially limited their participation on shipments of arms and supplies. However, by 1968 South Africa begun providing SA.316B Alouette III helicopters with crews to the FAP, and finally several companies of South African Defence Forces (SADF) infantry were deployed in southern central Angola. There were reports that a some Rhodesian pilots were recruited to fly FAP helicopters, however Rhodesian pilots were considered too valuable by the RRAF/RhAF to be deployed in support of the Portuguese, while the SADF had pilots and helicopters operating out of “Centro Conjunto de Apoio Aéreo” (CCAA – Joint Air Support Centre), set up in Cuito Cuanavale, in 1968.

FAP deployed a large number of SA.316B Alouette IIIs in Angola, and used them for all possible purposes. All the helicopters of this type were operated by Esquadra 94 and were camouflaged in overall green colour. This camouflage would soon be quite worn out to different shades of olive green due to the sun, sand and rain. In some operations a piece of tarpauline with a large number 1, 2, 3, or 4 was applied on the lower window of the cockpit doors. Several Rhodesian and South African "advisers" supported the Portuguese COIN operations, but these never succeeded in goading the Portuguese into employing some effective Rhodesian combat tactics.


A large number of Alouette IIIs were covertly obtained from various sources. In the 1970s six South African Air Force (SAAF) Alouette III helicopters were attached to No. 7 Squadron, Rhodesian Air Force. The Alouette III was also the choice of the South African Air Force which meant that training facilities and expertise could be shared. The Portuguese Air Force had also purchased Alouette IIIs.

For Fireforce missions a gunship version was developed with a Matra MG 151/20 20 mm cannon, its ammunition and a crew of three, which was named the 'K-car' version. The K-Car was also used as a mobile command post to allow the commander of the heli-borne troops to direct their operations from the air above them. In September 1974 K-Cars were fitted with anti-STRELA [the Russian SAM-7] shrouds on their engines and were given matt paint finish. A Rhodesian Alouette, configured as a gunship or 'K-Car' had the distinction of shooting down a Botswana Defence Force Islander on 9 August 1979.

The standard transports were called 'G-car' models. Used for the troop transport, gunship, SAR, casualty evacuation and a variety of other roles by 7 Sqn.. Rhodesian practice was to carry a technician and four troops and to mount a FN 7.62mm MAG machine-gun, after 1976 a twin Mk 2 0.303 Brownings machine guns. Experience in combat led the Rhodesians to remove the doors and to reverse the front passenger seats to widen the available floorspace and gain flexibility. Casualties could be put on the floor. It was easier to leave the helicopter quickly and more could be carried.

There were many Alouettes brought down by fire from the ground. At one stage, 27 SAAF helicopters were deployed in Rhodesia. Within No. 7 Squadron, the SAAF Alouettes were designated as belonging to Alpha Flight.

South Africa

The Alouette III helicopter served for 44 years and flew more than 346.000 hours in the South African Air Force (SAAF).

SAAF received its first examples in 1962, delivered to the SAAF’s 17 Squadron. In all, 118 were delivered between 1962 and the late 1970s. The last eight were received from Rhodesia, possibly as replacements for SAAF helicopters lost during operations in that country. Used in the SAAF in many roles, the Alouette III primary role was qualifying helicopter pilots and flight engineers for the SAAF, its secondary roles of SAR and supporting internal security in South Africa. The Alouette saw service with almost all SAAF helicopter units at one time or another. It was also used extensively throughout the Bush War in Namibia, Angola and Rhodesia. In these countries was used mainly in search-and-rescue, reconnaissance roles, providing top-cover for the Pumas during troop deployments and extractions and close air-support with Koevoet and army units. The Aloutte proved its durability in the demanding African environment.

By 1968 SAAF began providing Alouette III helicopters with crews to the FAP. SAAF was also deeply involved in Rhodesia from 1975 to 1980, at least 20 to 30 Alouette III helicopters were based in Rhodesia at any one time, initially under the South African Police name.

The Alouette III configurations used operationally by the SAAF during the Bush War were:

  • The K-car Gunship: armed with a Ga1, MG151 or Mk V Hispano 20mm cannon with AP and HE rounds. The most prominent feature of the K-car was the specially developed Heat shield around the turbine which vented the exhaust gasses up towards the rotors. This minimised the heat signature of the helicopter making it difficult for the Russian SAMs to lock onto target.
  • The G-car: Transport version, armed with 7.62mm FN MAG for Fireforce type and COIN operations.

An Alouette III powerplant and dynamics system were used as the basis for an engineering and development capability demonstrator as a precursor to the Rooivalk programme. It was designated the Alpha XH-1, and it first flew in 1984 and is preserved at the SAAF Museum. this Missile Gunship was armed with two AS12 Missiles and laser designator.

The official withdrawal of Alouette III in SAAF took place on 30 June 2006 at Swartkop in Pretoria.


  • 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 Royal Rhodesian Air Force. The G-Car was armed with two side-mounted Browning .303 or 7.62mm MAG machine guns. The K-Car was armed with one 20 mm MG 151 cannon, fitted inside the cabin, firing from the port side of the helicopter.
  • IAR 317 Skyfox: 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

  • Albania
    Albanian Air Force - (SA 319)
  • Angola
    People's Air and Air Defence Force of Angola 20× SA316Bs
  • Argentina
    Argentine Naval Aviation Fourteen (3× SE3160, 7× SA316B and 4× SA319B). Last surviving aircraft to be retired in 2010.
  • Austria
    Austrian Air Force Twenty-six (12× SE3160, 14× SA316B).
  • Bangladesh
    Bangladesh Air Force Four HAL-built former Indian Air Force 316s
  • Belgium
    Belgian Navy 3× SA316B
  • Bolivia
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burma
    Burma Air Force Fourteen (13× SE3160 and 1× SE316B)
  • Burundi
    Four (1× SE3160 and 3× SA316Bs)
  • Cameroon
    Cameroon Air Force 2× SA319
  • Chad
    Chad Air Force Ten former French SE3160s
  • Republic of the Congo
    Congolese Air Force 4× SA316B
  • Côte d'Ivoire
    Côte d'Ivoire Air Force Four (3× SE3160, 1× SA316B)
  • Dominican Republic
    Dominican Air Force 1× SE3160
  • Ecuador
    Ecuadorian Air Force (SA 316)
    Ecuadorian Army
  • El Salvador
    Air Force of El Salvador 1× SA316B
  • Equatorial Guinea
    Military of Equatorial Guinea
  • Ethiopia
    Ethiopian Air Force Eleven (5× SE3160 & 6× Romanian-built SA316B).
  • France
    French Navy 23 in active service
    Sécurité Civile Six (SA316)
  • Gabon
    Gabonese Air Force Five (1× SE3160, 1× SA316B, 3× SA319B)
  • Ghana
    Ghana Air Force 4× SA316B
  • Greece
    Hellenic Naval Aviation Two SA319B for rotary flying training
  • Guinea
    Guinean Air Force 1× SA316B
  • Guinea-Bissau
    Military of Guinea-Bissau (SA 316)
  • Hong Kong
    Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force Three (2× SE3160, 1× 316B)
  • India
    Indian Air Force 87+ (55× French-built SE3160 and SA316B, 32+ Indian-built SA319B Chetak)
    Indian Navy 18+ (7× French-built SE3160, 7× French-built SA316B plus Indian built Chetaks)
    Indian Army over 120 in active service.
  • Indonesia
    Indonesian Army 7× SE3160
  • Iran
  • Laos
  • Libya
    Libyan Arab Jamahiriyah Army Aviation 13× SA316B, three later to Malta
  • Madagascar
    Malagasy Air Force Two (SE3160, one former French Army)
  • Malawi
    Malawi Army Air Wing One SA316
  • Malaysia
    Royal Malaysian Air Force 26× SA316B and 10× SA319B (not including 7× SA316B transferred from Republic of Singapore Air Force in 1978/9), 20× SA316Bs were later transferred to the Malaysian Army's Air Wing
  • Malta
    Armed Forces of Malta 3× SA316B (all former Libyan Air Force).
  • Mexico
    Mexican Air Force 3× SE3160
    Mexican Naval Aviation Five (SA319B)
  • Morocco
    Royal Moroccan Gendarmie Air Squadron 2× SA316B.
  • Mozambique
    Mozambique Air Force 4× SA316B (former Portugal Air Force).
  • Namibia
    Namibian Air Force
  • Nepal
    Nepal Royal Flight 1× SE3160
    Air Battalion, 11th Brigade Nepal Army At least 4 HAL Cheetak.
  • Netherlands
    Royal Netherlands Air Force 4 in active service for VIP transport
  • Nicaragua
    Nicaraguan National Guard Two
  • Pakistan
    Pakistan Air Force Thirteen (7× SE3160, 4× SA316B, 2 x SA319B plus local production)
    Pakistan Army Twelve (11× SE3160, 1× SA316B)
    Pakistan Navy
    Pakistan Naval Air Arm (SA316, SA319)
  • People's Republic of China
    People's Liberation Army Ground Force
  • Peru
    Peruvian Air Force Twelve (4× SE3160, 8× SA316C)
    Peruvian Naval Aviation 6× SA316B
  • Portugal
    Portuguese Air Force 12× SA316B
  • Romania
    Romanian Air Force (IAR 316) 8× IAR316B in service for rotary flying training
  • Rwanda
    Rwanda Air Force 2× SE3160
  • Saudi Arabia
    Royal Saudi Air Force Five (4× SE3160, 1× SA316B)
  • Seychelles
  • South Korea
    Republic of Korea Navy (SA319B) One Alouette III on display at the War Memorial of Korea, Seoul, Republic of Korea
  • South Vietnam
    Vietnam Air Force (SA319)
  • Sri Lanka (SA316)
  • Suriname
    Military of Suriname (SA316)
  • Swaziland
    Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force 3 ex SAAF
  • Switzerland
    Swiss Air Force 34× SA316B
  • Tunisia
    Tunisian Air Force Eight (4× SE3160, 4× SA316B)
  • Venezuela
    Venezuelan Air Force 20× SE3160
    Special Helicopter Squad of 1st Corps of AF and AD used two SA 316 helicopters.
  • Zaire
    Zaire Air Force Ten (SE3160 and SA316B)
  • Zambia
    Zambian Air Force
  • Zimbabwe
    Air Force of Zimbabwe - (SA 316)

Former military operators

  • Australia
    Royal Australian Air Force - Three Alouette IIIs (RAAF serials A3-165 to 167) were in service from 1964 to 1967. The helicopters were used for general transport and support duties at the Woomeria Rocket Range in South Australia.
  • United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi)
  • Upper Volta
    Upper Volta Air Force Two SA316B
  • Biafra
    Biafran Air Force operated few helicopters.
  • Chile
    Chilean Navy 10× SA319Bs, retired in 1991
  • Denmark
    Danish Navy 8× SE3160
  • France
    French Air Force Entire fleet retired
    French Army Light Aviation Entire fleet retired
  • Iraq
    Iraq Air Force 44× SA316C
  • Ireland
    Irish Air Corps Eight (3× SE3160 and 5× SA316B) in service between 1963 and 2007.
  • Jordan
    Jordanian Air Force 16× SA316B
  • Lebanon
    Lebanese Air Force Eighteen (11× SE3160, 7× SA316B) retired from military service; currently being used for crop spraying
  • Rhodesia
    Rhodesian Air Force
  • Singapore
    Republic of Singapore Air Force (8× SA316B delivered in 1968/9, one preserved at RSAF Museum while remaining 7 were retired and transferred to Royal Malaysian Air Force in 1978/9)
  • South Africa (SA 316)
    South African Air Force 120 (58× SE3160, 40× SA316B plus others)
  • Spain
    Spanish Air Force 5× SA319B
    Spanish Army 3× SA319B

Civilian operators

  • Chile
    ALFA Helicópteros
  • Italy
    Air Walser srl
    GIANA Helicopter - RTI
  • Japan
    Tokyo Fire Department
    Some Local firefighting service
  • Pakistan
    Askari Aviation
  • United States
    Flight for Life

Specifications (SA 316B)

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 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)

Last updated December 31, 2010
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Aérospatiale Alouette III".
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