Following the large success of the SA.313 Alouette II, Sud-Aviation almost immediately began working on a new helicopter that would succeed the Alouette II. This time around however, the new vehicle would be substantially enlarged to accommodate up to five passengers or space for a pair of stretchers for rescue operations, while still following roughly the same layout and design philosophy.
In February 1959, the first SA.316 prototype successfully performed its maiden flight. Subsequent test flights showcased excellent performance and painted a bright future for the still in development helicopter. In 1961, the first production model, the SA.316A Alouette III, entered mass production.
Thanks to its excellent high-altitude performance, the Alouette III quickly received a favorable reputation during numerous rescue operations, especially those taking place in mountainous regions, such as the Alps or Himalayas.
By 1968, the first production model of the Alouette III was phased out of production and was instead replaced by the improved SA.316B. The new model featured strengthened main and tail rotor blades and offered overall better performance. By 1979, faced with a diminishing demand for the helicopter, Alouette III production ceased.
Alouette III helicopters were also widely exported and built under licence overseas. India, Switzerland and Romania all had their own assembly lines for licence-built versions of the Alouette III. The helicopter saw extensive use not only by French operators, but also world-wide. Alouette IIIs were found in the skies of almost all parts of the world, being used by over 40 operators worldwide!
Overall, over 2,000 SA.316 Alouette III helicopters were built by the time the last units were delivered in the mid 1980s. Although the helicopter is still in service with many operators around the world today, it’s increasingly being withdrawn from active service due to rising operating costs and lack of spare parts.