|CARRIER-BORNE FIGHTER||Virtual Aircraft Museum / France / Sud-Est|
Failure of the shipboard fighter requirement issued by the Service Technique Aeronautique in June 1946 (and which had resulted in Aerocentre NC 1080, Arsenal VG 90 and Nord 2200 prototypes being built) led to consideration being given to adoption by the Aeronavale of the Grumman F9F-5 Panther. In January 1951, however, the Ministere de la Marine announced the decision to adopt the de Havilland Sea Venom Mk 20, which was being developed for the Royal Navy as a side-by-side two-seat shipboard all-weather fighter and had yet to enter flight test. Four aircraft were supplied to the SNCASE in knocked down form for assembly as a "pre-series", the first of these flying on 31 October 1952, and the name Aquilon (North Wind) being adopted. A fifth "pre-series" aircraft and 25 production aircraft employing sub-assemblies provided by Airspeed were initially known as Aquilon 20s and subsequently as Aquilon 201s, the first of these flying on 24 March 1954. These were powered by the 2200kg Fiat-built de Havilland Ghost 48 Mk 1, armament comprising four 20mm cannon. Non-availability of the intended Thomson AI radar restricted the Aquilon 201s to diurnal operation, the same restriction being imposed on the next 25 aircraft which, delivered as Aquilon 202s, were entirely manufactured in France and differed in having ejection seats, an aft-sliding rather than aft-hinged cockpit canopy and a strengthened undercarriage. A decision was taken to adopt the Westinghouse APQ 65 AI radar, but, without major redesign of the airframe, it was found impossible to fit this equipment in the ejection seat-equipped two-seater. Production therefore continued with the Aquilon 203 single-seater, the last 25 of the 40 production examples of this version being equipped with APQ 65 radar as were the six two-seat Aquilon 204 radar trainers (not fitted with ejection seats) that brought production to an end, the last of these being flown at the beginning of 1958. The Aquilon was flown operationally by Flottilles 11F and 16F, eventually serving in the fighter training role and being phased out during 1964-65.