Seen here is SE3130 Alouette II s/n 1555, an aircraft with an extremely rich history within the French armed forces. Produced at MFD/ Eurocopter Group based in Marignane near Marseille (now Airbus Helicopters SAS), the aircraft saw the light of day on the 22nd of March, 1961.
That same year the aircraft performed its first flight and was delivered to the Armée de l’air where it received the military registration 278 and civil registration F-RAEY. Over the next 30 years the aircraft was moved between based over half a dozen of times, receiving various military and civil registrations and many different markings.
By 1996 however, the Alouette II’s military glory days with the French Armed forces were long gone, and the type’s military career was finally put to rest. On the 28th of June, 1996, Alouette II s/n 1555 took to the skies one final time painted in a special coat of paint, commemorating the 40 years of Alouette II service with the French air force, landing one final time at the Toulouze-Francazal air base.
The aircraft was stored away at BA 279 of Chateaudun. It remained here until the year 2000, reportedly sold to an entity based in the U.S.A. It is unclear what exactly happened there, as on the 5th of March 2002, the aircraft was offered for sale again by the D.N.I.D., (the French) National Directorate of Crown Intervention). The last report of the aircraft whereabouts is from October 2002, stating that the aircraft has remained in storage with the Armée de l’air at Pau-Pyrénées, reportedly still retaining the markings seen here.
The Alouette II with the l’Armée de l’air
First starting out as a civilian helicopter, the French military brass showed a large interested in the type. Soon orders were placed, an no less than 394 units would eventually be sold to all mayor branches of the military, including the Gendarmerie who used the type from 1955 to 1989.
The navy was the first to put their aircraft into service with the Escadrille 23S in 1955. In total it would receive 26 aircraft which would remain in service until 1997. Most of these aircraft were equipped with wheels instead of skids, except the Escadrille 10S which used devices equipped with floatation devices. On the 31st of December 1997, a machine from 23S performed the final flight of an Alouette II within the French Navy.
The Armée de l’air received 139 aircraft over the years, and was the first to use the aircraft in combat operations over Algeria. However, the aircraft and crew had a hard time adapting to the situation and the aircraft were mostly used as flying command posts and rarely saw much combat.
The army, or ALAT was the the biggest operator of the type, receiving no less than 229 aircraft over the years. It was also the sole branch where the aircraft were often outfitted with offensive weaponry like AS. 10 and AS. 11 ATGM’s.