|Aerospatiale SA-360 "Dauphin"|
The SA.360 Dauphin, which was designed to replace the Alouette III, was first seen in public at the 1973 Paris Air Show, but one of the two prototypes had already flown a year before, on 2 June 1972, with a 980shp Astazou XVI turbine, a four-blade main rotor (using the same blades as the Alouette III), a characteristic fenestron tail unit and fully-glazed front fuselage section. After 180 flights, the prototype was refitted with a 1050shp Astazou XVIII engine and new plastic rotor blades, and was modified to reduce vibrations and eliminate ground resonance.
Thus modified, flights were resumed in May 1973 and it was officially introduced at Le Bourget Air Show, where it distinguished itself by winning a series of three world records in the E1D class for helicopters from 1750 to 3000kg, piloted by Roland Coffignot. With a payload equivalent to eight passengers, it flew at 299km/h over a 100km closed circuit; at 312km/h over a 3km straight course and at 303km/h over 15km. The second prototype, which flew on 29 January 1973, was given new blades, and the first production aircraft subsequently introduced a stepped nose, which was standardized.
Production of the Dauphin began in 1974 with the SA.360C, but the market for this big single-engine aircraft seemed somewhat limited and it appeared to be underpowered. As a result, at the end of 1976 Aerospatiale found itself with no fewer than 15 completed Dauphin civil airframes waiting for customers. In the meantime, a military prototype had been developed, the SA.361, with a 1400shp Astazou XX turbine and Starflex rotor. This was accompanied by a second model with the same powerplant but the original rotor hub.
Production of the single-engine civil Dauphin stopped after 34 had been made, although development of the military version continued on an experimental basis. In the SA.361H/HCL (Helicoptere de Combat Leger) configuration, the Dauphin can carry eight HOT antitank missiles. With an SFIM turret, it can attack tanks even at night. Other weapons fits typical of Aerospatiale helicopters can be used (e.g. light, flexible machine guns, rocket launchers, Minitat).
G.Apostolo "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Helicopters", 1984