Not all Dassault Super Etendards look the same... (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Fourty years of ‘un avion superbe’

As these words are typed, there’s a party going on at the French naval airbase of Landivisiau. At the center of festivities is the Dassault Super Étendard, the carrier strike aircraft that made international headlines on a few occasions and now turns 40. French 17 Flotille today turns the spotlight on the aircraft it operates, and gave one of their aircraft a fitting makeover.

The Super Étendard first flew on 28 October 1974 as a development of the Dassault Étendard, and in the end 85 aircraft were produced for the naval forces of France and Argentina. While the French were the biggest user with 75 aircraft, it was the Argentinians that made headlines with the Super Étendard by arming it with Exocet anti ship missiles and using that combo during the Falklands war with deadly consequences against British ships.

A French super Etendard, seen at Landivisiau. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A French Super Étendard, seen at Landivisiau. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Iraq
The same combination of aircraft and rocket was used by Iraq during the eight year Iraq-Iran war. Five French Super Étendards were loaned to Iraq while the country waited for Dassault Mirage F-1 deliveries. Iraqi Super Étendards attacked Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf.

The most recent use of the Super Étendard was by the French over Afghanistan and Libya. The French aircraft were modernised to Super Étendard Modernisé, affectionately known as SEM. The aircraft is however nearing the end of its usefull life: 11 Flotille, sister unit of 17 Flotille that today celebrates the Super Étendard, already transitioned to the Dassault Rafale M.

© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Elmer van Hest

One of the classic shapes in aviation. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
One of the classic shapes in aviation. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The French know this aircraft affentionately as 'SEM'. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The French know this aircraft affentionately as ‘SEM’. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The stairs to the office. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The stairs to the office. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The foldable wings are a reminder: this an aircraft made for carrier operations. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The foldable wings are a reminder: this an aircraft made for carrier operations. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Superbe! A Super Etendard looking old skool at the Le Bourget Salon in june 1991. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Superbe! A Super Étendard looking old skool at the Le Bourget Salon in june 1991. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A filled Landivisiau flightline. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A filled Landivisiau flightline. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Not all Dassault Super Etendards look the same... (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Not all Dassault Super Etendards look the same… (Image © Elmer van Hest)