The C-160 Transall first flew in 1963. Production was completed in 1972, but in 1977 the program was reinstated to produce a "new generation" C-160 for France. The last of these new generation aircraft entered service in 1987. The wings are high-mounted and equally tapered outboard of the two turboprop engines, which are mounted under and extend beyond the wings’ leading edges. The fuselage is long, thick, and tapered to the rear with an upswept tail section.
Originally conceived as a replacement for the Nord Noratlas, which equipped French and West German transport units, the C-160 was one of the first successful joint European aerospace ventures, being produced by a consortium of companies which was collectively known as the Transport Allianz group. Indeed, the name and designation chosen for the resulting machine reflected the origins of the project Transall was merely a contraction of Transport Allianz. The initial quantity to be acquired was set at 160 aircraft; 50 C-160F models for France and 110 C-160D models for West Germany. Members of the original production group included Nord-Aviation, Hamburger Flugzeugbau (HFB) and Vereinigte Flugtechnische Werke (VFW), these joining forces at the beginning of 1959.
Three prototypes were built, one by each of the three major partners in this venture, and the first of these made a successful maiden flight on 25 February 1963. They were followed by six pre-production examples from May 1965, while production-configured C-160s began to emerge in the spring of 1967; by the time manufacture ceased in 1972 a total of 169 aircraft had been built. In addition to the 160 examples supplied to the two principal partners, nine more of a variant known as the C-160Z were sold to South Africa. The only other air arm to operate the original type was Turkey, which took delivery of 20 C-160T aircraft (former Luftwaffe examples) in the early-1970s.
Subsequently, at the end of the 1970s, it was decided to reopen the production line in France, that country's air force ordering 25 C-160NG models (Nouvelle Génération) which differ from their predecessors by virtue of additional fuel capacity and improved avionics. Range limitations have been partly resolved by the extra center-section fuel tank, but the newest C-160s also feature inflight refueling capability in the form of a probe above the cockpit. Four more C-160NGs were added in 1982, and production ended in 1985. Ten aircraft were completed with a hose-drum unit in the port undercarriage sponson for refueling tactical aircraft, and five more have provision for the fitment of this feature so that they can be rapidly re-roled as tankers.
The Transall's maximum payload is 35,275 pounds (16,000kg), while 93 troops or 62 litters can be accommodated the aircraft wheels can be raised in order to lower the fuselage for loading and unloading. Loads up to 17,637 pounds (8,000kg) can be air dropped. The aircraft can carry out low altitude drops at between 10 and 30 feet (3 to 9m), and touch and go drops in which the aircraft briefly touches the runway without landing.
In 1994, an upgrade program for French Air Force C-160s which was completed in 1999. The upgraded cockpit is equipped with a new head0-up display and an upgraded electronic warfare suite with a radar warning receiver, missile approach warner and chaff and decoy dispensers.
The aircraft have been fitted with a new EFIS 854 TF Electronic Flight Instrumentation System, which includes Electronic Attitude Director Indicator (EADI) and Electronic Horizontal Situation Indicator (EHSI). A flight management system with two Gemini 10 computers and a new radio management system have been installed. Three new sensors have been installed for aircraft position and attitude control: an inertial reference unit (IRU) an attitude and heading reference unit (AHRU) and a global positioning system (GPS).
German Air Force C-160Ds have been upgraded with BAE SYSTEMS High Integration Air Data Computer (HIADC), Litton ALR-68 radar warning systems and Rockwell FMS-800 Flight Management and Global Positioning System.
The C-160G Gabriel configures an ELINT subsystem provided by Thomson-CSF Radars & Contre-Mesures for detection, analysis and location of radar sources with a COMINT subsystem provided by Thomson-CSF Communications for detection, interception, classification, listening-in, analysis and location of radio transmitters. Thomson-CSF Radars & Contre-Mesures has also developed complete SIGINT electronic intelligence systems for integration on board the C-160 and similar aircraft.
Special features include wingtip pods with UHF/DF blade antennas, a group of five large blade antennas on top of the forward fuselage, a blister fairing on each side of the rear fuselage, and a retractable dome, under the forward fuselage.
Four communications relay aircraft, designation C-160H Astarte (Avion STAtion Relais de Transmissions Exceptionelles), have been delivered to the French Air Force since 1987. The aircraft’s main mission is communications with the submerged nuclear ballistic missile submarines of the French fleet. The aircraft are equipped with unjammable VLF communications including a Rockwell VLF transmitter and a Thomson-CSF communications center. The VLF system includes dual trailing wire antennae.
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