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Aérospatiale Super Frelon

The SA 321 Super Frelon, also known as the “Super Hornet,” is a heavy transport helicopter with three engines.

It was manufactured by Sud Aviation, an aerospace company based in France.

At one time, it was considered the most powerful helicopter built in Europe and held the title of the world’s fastest helicopter.

The Super Frelon was an enhanced version of the SE.3200 Frelon, which did not make it to production.

The first prototype took its maiden flight on December 7, 1962.

A modified Super Frelon set a new FAI absolute helicopter world speed record on July 23, 1963, reaching a speed of 217.7 mph (350.4 km/h).

Military customers were the primary buyers of both civilian and military variants of the Super Frelon.

Production was halted in 1981 by Aerospatiale, the successor of Sud Aviation, due to insufficient orders.

The Super Frelon saw extensive service with naval air arms, including the French Naval Aviation and the People’s Liberation Army Naval Air Force.

The French Navy retired the type on 30 April 2010, opting for Eurocopter EC225 helicopters temporarily until the NHIndustries NH90 helicopter became available.

In China, the Super Frelon was produced under license by the Harbin Aircraft Industry Group as the Harbin Z-8 and remained in service for a significant period.

A modernised version of the Z-8, known as the Avicopter AC313, conducted its maiden flight on March 18, 2010.

SE.3200 Frelon
Prototype transport helicopter powered by three 597 kW (800 hp) Turbomeca Turmo IIIB engines driving a four-bladed rotor of 15.2 m (50 ft) diameter.

Two built, the first flying on June 10, 1958.
SA 321
Preproduction aircraft. Four built.
SA 321G
Anti-submarine warfare version for the French Navy, it was powered by three Turbomeca IIIC-6 turboshaft engines; 26 built.
SA 321Ga
Utility and assault transport helicopters for the French Navy.
SA 321GM
Export version for Libya, fitted with Omera ORB-32WAS radar.
SA 321H
Export version for Iraq was powered by three Turbomeca Turmo IIIE turboshaft engines, fitted with Omera ORB-31D search radar, and armed with Exocet anti-ship missiles.
SA 321F
Commercial airline helicopter, powered by three Turbomeca IIIC-3 turboshaft engines, with accommodation for 34 to 37 passengers.
SA 321J
Commercial transport helicopter and accommodation for 27 passengers.
SA 321Ja
Improved version of the SA 321J.
SA 321K
Military transport version for Israel.
SA 321L
Military transport version for South Africa, fitted with air inlet filters.
SA 321M
Search and rescue, utility transport helicopter for Libya.
Changhe Z-8
Chinese built version with three Changzhou Lan Xiang WZ6 turboshaft engines.
Changhe Z-8A
Army transport.
Changhe Z-8F
Chinese built version with Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6B-67A turboshaft engines.
Changhe Z-8AEW
Chinese AEW helicopter with retractable radar antenna, AESA radar, 360-degree coverage, redesigned nose similar to the AC313, and FLIR.
Changhe Z-8L
Chinese variant with wide-body fuselage and enlarged fuel sponsons, first spotted in January 2019.

The internal width of the load area has been increased from 1.8m to 2.4 m, making it larger than old Z-8 and SA321 variants.





27 passengers


15 stretchers


23.03 m (75 ft 7 in) (overall, rotors turning)

Fuselage length

19.40 m (63 ft 8 in)


6.66 m (21 ft 10 in)

Empty weight

6,863 kg (15,130 lb)

Max take-off weight

13,000 kg (28,660 lb)

Fuel capacity

3,975 L (1,050 US gal; 874 imp gal) (normal)


3 × Turboméca Turmo IIIC turboshafts,

1,160 kW (1,550 shp) each

Main rotor diameter

18.90 m (62 ft 0 in)

Main rotor area

280.6 m2 (3,020 sq ft)


Cruise speed

249 km/h (155 mph, 134 kn) at sea level

Never exceed speed

275 km/h (171 mph, 148 kn)


1,020 km (630 mi, 550 nmi)


4 hr

Service ceiling

3,150 m (10,330 ft)

Rate of climb

6.66 m/s (1,312 ft/min)


4 × homing torpedoes in the ASW role or

2 × Exocet missiles in the anti-ship role.

Helicopters: An Illustrated History of their Impact-S S McGowen.
How the Helicopter Changed Modern Warfare-W Boyne.
National Air and Space Museum of France.


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