Home Page | Photo Page1 | Photo Page2 | Updates Page | Contact Page | Favorite Links | Shopping Page | Cockpit Forum |


Copyright © 1999-2002, NOTRE - COCKPIT_IMAGE -  MACH


Article from Philippe & François NOTRE   

After the Navy restructuring plan, 22F was withdrawn in September 1996. For the moment only 21F remains in service at Nimes-Garons to cover the Mediterranean coast while 23F and 24F based at Lann Bihoué in Brittany are in charge of the Atlantic side. However around year 2000/ 2001, 24F will be re-equipped with Falcon, Nord 262 and a new 28F Flotille will be commissioned at Hyères naval air station with the Nord 262.

Brief History

In 1955, NATO lagged behind the Russians in the field Maritime Air Patrol. Efforts were in progress to encourage a multilateral program to select the best one for a maritime air patrol plane. The goal was the development of an air weapon system to counter the threats posed by soviet submarines. In 1958, ten of 14 NATO nations took part in the program, and eventually achieved the operational recommendation and the technical specification. The Nations involved were Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, UK and the US which gave the licensees to produce weapon systems. Many proposals were submitted for such plane and finally the Breguet 1150 Atlantic was selected. The US manufacturer Grumman acquired the rights to build the selected plane. There was uproar when the US chose Lookeed P3 Orion as its next generation ASW aircraft as was the case when Great Britain opted out of the NATO program to convert its "COMET" to a military version called "NIMROD".

After several attempts the French Naval Aviator René Bloch, chairman of the NATO Maritime Patrol Committee, made the Atlantic program a success. The UK and US who had withdrawn from program support were eager to supply these equipment, such as Rolls Royce for the engines and a US manufacturer for the ASW system. In total 87 Atlantic were built for 4 countries. At first, France and Germany kept their commitment to 40 and 20 respectively.
Then the Netherlands ordered more in July 1968 followed by Italy in October. Later Pakistan acquired a few. Financial and political crises, long standing international, national and industrial rivalry were the main problems encountered on the road to finding a common agreement between NATO countries.

From a technical point of view, the Atlantic was a success and it accomplished its mission very well. In 1988, French Aeronavale logged 300 000 hours i.e. about half of all Atlantic’s users put together. While Germany logged 120 000 hours including a pass over the North pole and national not revealed single flight endurance record of 20 hours 20 minutes. The Atlantic’s 30th anniversary celebration took place at Toulouse in 1990. Up to now the PATMAR had about 80 years of experience since its first apparition in 1910-1911 at St Raphael.The success of the ATL-1 encouraged countries to develop a new generation of maritime plane. For economic and political reasons, France with Dassault Aviation, conducted its own development with the ATL-2 Atlantique. The first plane was delivered to the Aeronavale in October 1989. Today the squadrons 23F, 24F from Lann_Bihoué (Brittany) and 21F from Nimes-Garons remain operational with ATL-2s. The 22F started its conversion but due to budget constraints, 22F was decommissioned in September 1996.

The original order planned was for 42 planes, but this number was reduced to 28 planes. However in Year 2001, the 24F of Lann-Bihoué will be re-equipped with Falcon 10 'Guardian' instead (acquired from the different units based Overseas). Around year 2000, NAS Hyères will host a new maritime air patrol squadron 28F equipped with Nord 262.While all units deployed Overseas should replace their Falcon 10 (Guardian) by the longer range Falcon 50 (second hand) acquired recently by the Marine Nationale from the civilian market.
Nimes-Garon Naval air station

The base started its military activity during World War II when Germany built a 1800 meters runway. Before the War, the facility was used by a flying club. During the 50s the base was expanded and in 1959 became the home base for the Aeronavale. Located about 10 Km from Nimes and 180 Km from Toulon harbour, the naval base shares the runway with the local airport. Approximately 2100 persons work on base and about 35 planes are shared out between the 6 F equipped with Alizés , 21F ( 22 F until Sept.96) with the Atlantique ATL-2 and the training aircrew squadron 56S flying on Nord 262E. Some ATLs from Nimes are deployed overseas to provide maritime surveillance and search rescue for African countries (Senegal, Djibouti, Gabon) and a detachment is sent to Guyana during Ariane launchings.

Mission : "UNIFORM-BRAVO" 6 

The mission takes place about 120 Nautical south of Toulon near the west coast of Corsica. Once in the plane, the Captain EV Carré introduced us to the crewmen. Just after the briefing, everyone needs to be ready at their workstation one hour before taking off. They know perfectly their job, all of them are doing the last data checks. The ATL-2 is alight with electronic equipment and monitors. In the darkness, monitor colours stand out, like inside a space shuttle. Only the pilots, flight engineer and observers can see the day light. Even if the plane is well equipped in electronics, the observer’s eyes are still very important to make the mission a success. Observation points are located on the port and starboard side while another one is in the front nose of the plane. Searching for a periscope on to the sea, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystackOur target: a submarine called 'Junon' that is patrolling somewhere in a limited area.

An observer shows us the emergency procedures - everyone gets a parachute and wears permanently a rescue vest. Once one is sitting into the back plane, one can hear the two turboprop humming, the plane is moving, stopping point, the pilot releases the breaks - the plane is running, the flaps at 8°, the ATL-2 speeds up to reach 140 knots when taking off. Our cruising altitude is around 5000 feet. The automatic pilot is now engaged and it will be widely used during the whole mission. Normally, a mission lasts between 5 and 10 hours. The different acoustic buoys are ready to be ejected. Each of them is used in a specific tactical situation. A mechanic crew loads in the ejector several 'Bathy Termi' buoys which are used to determine the different temperature layers of the water. As he explains to us, the sonar waves spread-out differently depending on the temperature and the water’s salinity. Once these data are determined, they are communicated to the on board computer and displayed to the crews. Now the plane flies down to start tracking its target; at this stage the altitude is ranging 300-800 feet. On board, the 13 crews men work with a very good team spirit, they will work together for 3 years. Each of them has a specific task, moving from the rear of the plane the two observers also handle the buoys which can be ejected from the back. Then we find the darkness in the tactical part where on the right side all operator work, which includes the following :

3 SENSOR operators who handle the acoustic system SADAND for processing all the information collected from the buoys. Two different types of buoys are used: Active "pinging" (DICASS SSQ62B) and passive "listening" (DSTV7B, DIFAR SSQ53D). The passive one has the advantage of being very silent however it is not very precise as regards detection purposes. Usually they are ejected into the sea, like a line or circle pattern. The active one uses its own sonar that is very precise but very noisy. A submarine can be alerted and jams it by releasing air bubbles or by picking up the echo and send it back. The SADAND system checks in its database if the signal is identified, if so it displays the features of the submarine. These operators carry out about 100 buoys, 70 tracers and smokes.

1 TACTICAL operator (TACCO) and 1 RADAR operator. The TACCO has a very difficult job, it is up to him to synthesize all data received from the other operators. Step by step he will decide the best tactics to track and destroy the target. He also handles the FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red) system made by TRT/SAT which increases enormously the missions effectiveness at night and in bad visibility. It can track its target up to 45 nautical but in very bad weather condition the system will become less performance. The TACCO’s final task involves looking after the weapon system station. In the event of having to attack a contact, various weapon options are available. For submarines, torpedoes MK-46 or "Murène" may be employed as well as conventional depth charges. For dealing with larger surface ships, the AMM-39 Exocet can be launched. The Radar operator gets the two same screens but of course he is more concentrated on the radar display (radar "Iguane" from Thomson-CSF) which is connected to the IFF antenna.1 ESM, CME, MAD operator - he handles ESM system (ARAR-13) which is used for detection, analysis and identification against the surface ship. This system is very important in relation to the plane’s self protection. The ECM (Electronic Counter Measure) is used to jam missiles. This operator also carries out the Crouzet DHAX 3MAD (Magnetic Anomaly Detection) for submarines. Before we get to the cockpit there are two further operators: the NAVIGATOR and the RADIO. A navigation table gives the correct position of the plane. This system uses the data coming from the 2 inertial systems, the NAVSTAR/GPS satellite receiver. All the transmissions use the UHF & HF system which permits the sending of vocal or electronic message. The messages can be encrypted or sent to clear. Operators have access to a database where radar signatures and acoustic echoes are recorded. After each mission the database must be updated. Over 2000 radar electromagnetic modes are available. Finally we reach the cockpit: on the left side the PILOT, in the middle the MECHANICSEngineer who checks the engines control panel, and on the right the PLANE CAPTAIN handles the navigation; he is the co-ordinator between the pilot and the TACCO. Of course in emergency situations, he can pilot the plane. In front of him are mainly displayed the navigation and tactical information and a small screen for the FLIR. Just underneath the cockpit, the front observation spot, where the OBSERVER can also point the FLIR/camera 'Tango' to the target. But most of the time the FLIR is used in automatic mode, this is possible thanks to the calculator LOTI (Logiciel de Traitement de l’Information) which processes data coming from the radar "Iguane" for example. After a few hours the alert is sounded, an echo has been detected, the aircraft banks to the left, heading 274 now we approach to the target for identification. The ATL-2 flies really low; at 110 feet the pilot can still use the automatic pilot, below that the pilot uses the manual mode. It is very impressive to fly so low and see the plane so steady at this altitude.

The TACCO gives orders to eject passives buoys from the belly bay that contains 72 of them. The submarine has been detected and the tracking can start. The submarine sounds to go deeper into the sea. Now an active buoys is ejected, as soon as they get its co-ordinates, the aircrew has to react very quickly; the TACCO arms two torpedoes, and ultimately the order is sent to fire them. This is a training mission, so nothing happens, at that stage everything is simulated.For the ATL-2 crew is time to go back home - on the way back we fly over an oil tanker which remind us that it’s also part of the PATMAR mission: the maritime surveillance. The French Navy used frequently its ATLs in support of the naval blockade of Serbia; like during Operation "Sharp Guard", "Deny flight". ATL perform these missions over the Adriatic either from their home base at Nimes-Garons or in Italy from Signonella.We’re flying about 180 nautical cruise speed, after an hour we see the Mediterranean coast, then Nimes-Garons. Before landing, the pilot performs a few "touch and go" and a failure engine is simulated. The air controller gives the last instructions, the pilot makes a perfect approach followed by an impeccable landing. A quick shot of the aircrew before every one head up the Tactical Centre (CENTAC) for the debriefing.

For the full article please contact

Acknowledgements : Les Auteurs tiennent à exprimer leurs plus vifs remerciements au SIRPA MER, au CV Schmuckel Commandant de la BAN, au CF Rousseau commandant de la 21F, aux PAO EV Eozenou, aux équipages ATL2 du "Uniforme-Bravo 6" et au personnel de la base pour leur chaleureux accueil.

ATLANTIQUE 2 - Long range maritime patrol aircraft

Derived from the NATO Atlantic Mk1 (ATL 1)

Aircraft specifically designed for anti-submarine warfare (ASW), and anti-surface warfare (ASUW).

Main characteristics

A huge weapon bay : high load carrying capability 
8 torpedoes Mk 46 or MU-90
or 2 EXOCET AM 39 missiles and ASW grenades-Buoys
2 TYNE MK 21 turbo-prop engines

Weapon systems

Advanced sensors ("Iguane" Radar - Acoustics/ESM DSAX 1 Sadang/ ARAR 13 - FLIR/Camera "Tango" - MAD Crouzet DHAX 3 
Distributed data processing system architecture (redundant mutiplex data bus, digital computer, multipurpose displays)

Performances Patrol : 8 hours on station at 600 NM with standard armament

Maximum flight time : 18 hours
Maximum range:4200 NM