SA316 performing its maiden flight.
SA316 Alouette III designed and built by Aerospatiale (now Eurocopter).
HAL Chetak is derived from SA316 Alouette III helicopter.
SA316 Alouette III deployed at the Swiss Air Force.
A close view of SA316 Alouette III helicopter turbine.

SA316 multi-role light transport helicopter

The SA316 or SA319 is a multi-role light transport helicopter designed and built by Aerospatiale (now known as Eurocopter) for the French Armed Forces. It was derived from the SE-313B Alouette II that was earlier designated as SE3160 Alouette. About 2,043 SA316s are currently operating worldwide.

SA316 light transport helicopter variants

The SA316 has nine variants namely SA316A, SA316B, HAL Chetak, IAR 316, SA319B, SA316C, G-Car and K-Car, IAR 317 Skyfox and Atlas XH-1 Alpha.

SA316A is a new designation of the first production model, the SE3160 Alouette.

SA316B is an improved version of the SA316, fitted with robust main and tail rotor systems for greater performance.

HAL Chetak is an Indian copy of the SA316B built by Hindustan Aeronautical Industries. This variant is principally used for training, light transport, casualty evacuation, communications and liaison missions.

SA319B is an enhanced version of the SA316B, which is powered by a 447kW (660hp) Turbomeca Astazou XIV turboshaft engine.

"The SA316 is designed to execute both military and civil operations even in the worst weather conditions."

The IAR 316 is a Romanian produced variant.

The SA316C is powered by a Turbomeca Artouste IIID turboshaft engine and was introduced in 1972.

The G-car and K-car are combat versions fitted with 7.62mm MAG machine guns and 20mm MG 151 cannon respectively.

IAR 317 Skyfox is a Romanian light attack helicopter built by IAR.

Orders and deliveries

Aerospatiale’s order book for SA316 / SA319 includes France (1,453), India (300), Romania (230) and Switzerland (60).

Military orders obtained from worldwide customers include: the Swiss Army (24), Royal Danish Navy (eight) and the air forces of Australia (14), Burma (13), Burundi (one), Cambodia (two), Congolese Republic (five), Dominican Republic (one), Eire (three), Ethiopia (five), Hong Kong (two), India (37), Ivory Coast (two), Jordan (seven), Lebanon (seven), Malaysia (23), Mexico (four), Nepal (one), the Netherlands (77), Pakistan (eight), Peru (four), Portugal (54), Rhodesia (eight), Rwanda (two), South Africa (54), Tunisia (four), Venezuela (20) and Vietnam (two).

The French Army ordered 50 Alouette IIIs in June 1961. Pakistan procured 35 SA316 helicopters and deployed in the Indo-Pak War of 1971 for liaison and VIP transport operations. A total of 14 SA316s were acquired by the Argentina Navy.

SA316 helicopter design

The SA316 is designed to execute both military and civil operations even in the worst weather conditions. The semi-monocoque fuselage is equipped with a three-bladed main and tail rotor system.

The helicopter executes civilian operations including forest fire surveillance, medical-evacuation, overhead power lines control, aerial image capture and geological research. It can also perform light-attack and antisubmarine roles.


The SA316 took its maiden flight in February 1959 and entered into service with French Armed Forces in 1960. Series production of the aircraft began in 1961. It was first certified in December 1961. Production was deserted in 1968 as it was replaced with the SA316B. Three helicopters were taken to Australia between 1964 and 1967 for local assembly.

"The SA316 features two hardpoints on either side of the fuselage."

The Alouette III helicopters delivered before 1969 were designated as SE3160 and the remaining as SA316B. The last French-built SA316 Alouette III was delivered in 1985.

The SA316 operations were also disbanded by the French Air Force (2004), the Venezuelan Air Force (1990), the Irish Air Corps (2007) and the Swiss Armed Forces (2010).


The SA316 features a glass cockpit which can accommodate two flight crew – a pilot and a co-pilot. It also boasts a spacious and comfortable cabin fitted with four doors on either side of the fuselage. The cabin can carry five passengers or a pilot, two medical assistants and two stretcher patients when operating as an aerial ambulance.

Seats can be easily removed for providing open space for freight loading and unloading. The external sling can carry 750kg of cargo during air or sea rescue missions. The helicopter can also carry 175kg of additional payload.


The SA316 features two hardpoints on either side of the fuselage. It is armed with four AS11 anti-tank missiles and two Mk44 torpedoes. A 20mm cannon is fitted on the left side of the fuselage. A 7.62mm machine gun is mounted on a tripod at the right-side doorway.

SA316 engines

The SA316 is powered by a single Turbomeca Artouste IIIB turboshaft engine which produces 649kW of output power. The engine is equipped with a single stage compressor, combustors, and a three stage turbine.

The length and diameter of the engine are 1.81m and 0.66m respectively. The dry weight is 178kg.


The SA316 can climb at the rate of 4.3m/s. The maximum and cruise speeds of the helicopter are 210km/h and 185km/h respectively. The range is 540km and the service ceiling is 3,200m.

The helicopter weighs around 1,108kg and its maximum take-off weight is 2,200kg.