Aérospatiale SA 321 Super Frelon

1st Flight 1962

Military Users-

People’s Liberation Army Air Force, People’s Liberation Army Navy, French Naval Aviation, Pelita Air Service, Iraqi Air Force, Israeli Air Force, Libyan Air Force, Libyan Navy, South African Air Force, Air Force of Zaire.

SA 321 Super Frelon

The Aérospatiale SA 321 Super Frelon is a large, heavy-lift single-rotor helicopter, furnished with a relatively atypical three-engine configuration, these are Turboméca Turmo IIIC turbo-shaft engines set on top of the fuselage, a pair of turbines positioned side by side at the front and one located aft of the main rotor.

SA 321 Super Frelon

The naval anti-submarine and anti-ship variants are usually equipped with navigation and search radar (ORB-42), and a 50-metre rescue cable.

They are most often fitted with a 20 mm cannon, countermeasures, night vision, a laser designator and a Personal Locator System.

The Super Frelon can also be fitted for inflight refueling.

SA 321 Super Frelon

The front engines have simple individual ram intakes, while the rear one is fitted with a semi-circular scoop to provide air; all three bifurcated exhausts are near to the rotor head.

The three engines and the reduction gearbox are mounted on a horizontal bulkhead and firewall which forms the roof of the cabin and upper structural member of the fuselage.

The engines are isolated by multiple firewalls, including transverse firewalls separating front and rear engines from the rotor gearbox, and zonal engine firewalls.

SA 321 Super Frelon

Eight sturdy hinged doors provide access to the compact Turmo engines, which have ample space around them to enable ground crew to service them without using external platforms.

The fuselage is actually a hull, which makes use of a semi-monocoque light alloy construction; according to aerospace publication Flight International, the hull design was “reminiscent of flying-boat engineering”.

The main cabin lacks any transverse bracing, except for a single bulkhead between the cockpit and cabin.

SA 321 Super Frelon

Substantial built-up frames connect the strengthened roof structure with the floor/planning-bottom of transverse under-floor bulkheads and outer skin.

A conventional exterior skin is used, employing longitudinal stiffeners as well as two lines of deep channel members, while the under-floor cross members are reinforced with vertical stiffeners.

There is no keel, at the floor level there are horizontal members between frames which are stiffened by transverse shear angles.

SA 321 Super Frelon

Flexible fuel cells are stored in four watertight under-floor compartments lying fore and aft of the rotor axis, while the floor itself is fitted with removable panels.

A hatch set into the floor, positioned approximately underneath the rotor axis, is used for sling-load operations.

At the rear of the cabin is a tapered section of simple semi-monocoque construction, which is closed by a robust hinged rear loading ramp, which serves as the main entrance for bulky loads or equipment.

China’s Changhe Z-8 Copy

The loading ramp is jettisonable in emergency situations. Additionally, there is a sliding door located on the forward starboard side, while a small hinged emergency door is set on the aft port side.

The tail boom uses conventional semi-monocoque construction, supported by closely spaced notched channel-section frames and continuous stringers, absent of any major longitudinal sections or longerons.

The cranked section carrying the tail rotor and trim plane is more robust, strengthened by a solid-web spar, frames, and stiffeners.

SA 321 Super Frelon

The juncture of the main boom and cranked section is hinged in order to reduce the rotorcraft’s folded length to 58 ft.

Along the top of the boom, the shaft for the tail rotor is covered by a fairing.

The fixed landing gear has twin wheels on each of the three vertical shock absorber-equipped struts.

SA 321 Super Frelon

The main leading gear units are mounted on triangulated tubular structures, while the nose gear is bracketed to the cockpit bulkhead via a watertight seal in the planning bottom.

The main wheels have hydraulic brakes operated from the pedals, complete with a parking hand brake.

The nose, which is covered by large glazed panels, has a bow chine and planning bottom built as a unit with the flight deck, which is higher than the main cabin floor.

SA 321 Super Frelon


Crew: 5


27 passengers or

15 stretchers

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

Fuselage length: 19.40 m (63 ft 8 in)

Height: 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)

SA 321 Super Frelon

Power plant: 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)

Range: 1,020 km (630 mi, 550 nmi)

Endurance: 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

SA 321 Super Frelon


Aeroscopia Museum, Toulouse, France

Helicopters: An Illustrated History of Their Impact-Stanley McGowen

Jane’s pocket guide: Modern military helicopters- Tim Ripley


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