The Aérospatiale Alouette II (French for Lark) 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 engine instead of the conventional heavier piston powerplant.
The Alouette II 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 under-slung 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 two years a helicopter had to be in production, otherwise all rotary wing activities would cease. SNCASE came up with seven turbo-engine helicopter 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 12th March 1955 and within three months on 6 June a pre-production Alouette II flown by Jean Boulet set a new helicopter altitude record of 8,209 m (26,926 ft). On 13 June 1958 one SE 3130, again flown by Boulet, re-took the record, reaching a height of 10,984 m (36,027 ft).
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