The SA 315B Lama was originally designed to meet a Nepalese Army Air Service and Indian Air Force requirement for a rotorcraft capable of undertaking operations at hot and high conditions.
Both countries possessed extreme mountain ranges in the form of the Himalayas in which even relatively powerful medium-sized helicopters could not be effectively operated within, thus there was an expressed desire for an aerial vehicle capable of operating in this challenging environment.
To achieve the desired performance, Aerospatiale elected to combine elements of two existing popular helicopters in their inventory, the Aérospatiale Alouette II and the Aérospatiale Alouette III to produce a new rotorcraft specialized for high altitude performance.
Specifically, the new helicopter, named Lama, was equipped with the Alouette III’s Turbomeca Artouste turbo shaft power plant and its dynamic systems, and was furnished with a reinforced version of the Alouette II’s airframe.
On 17 March 1969, the first SA 315B, powered by an Artouste IIB engine, undertook its maiden flight.
On 30 September 1970, the type received its airworthiness certificate, and it was introduced to operational service in July 1971.
Due to its favourable high altitude performance, the Lama quickly became popular with operators worldwide, often being deployed within mountainous environments.
As with the Alouette series, the type can be fitted for various roles, such as light passenger transport, agricultural tasks, oil-and-gas exploration, aerial firefighting, and other specialized duties.
The military variants of the Lama include liaison, observation, photography, air/sea rescue, transport and ambulance duties.