Air Force Military Aircraft: Nord Noratlas, Images by PHOTOVAULT®

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Military Transport
Manufacturer Nord Aviation, France
Designed by Jean Calvy
First flight 1949-09-10
Introduced 1953-06-12
Retired 1989, France
Primary users France
Number built 425

The Nord Noratlas was a 1950s French military transport aircraft intended to replace the older types in service at the end of World War II. Several hundred were produced in a run lasting over a decade, finding a wide variety of uses.

At the end of World War II, the French Armée de l'Air was left with two primary transport aircraft: the Junkers Ju 52 and the Douglas C-47. While both had given good service, they suffered from a common set of flaws: their tail-dragger landing gear gave them a nose-up attitude when at rest, complicating cargo stowing; restrictive side-loading doors; and limited payload.

Accordingly, in 1947 Direction Technique Industrielle organized a design competition for medium-weight cargo aircraft offering great flexibility in use. Société Nationale de Construction Aéronautique du Nord (SNCAN) answered with the Nord 2500, while their competitors, Breguet and SNCASO, offered the BR-891R Mars and SO-30C respectively. The Nord 2500, with its rear-opening clamshell doors allowing ease of loading, was considered the most promising, and DTI ordered two prototypes on April 27, 1948.

The first prototype took to the air on September 10, 1949 powered by two Gnome-Rhône 14R engines of 1,600 hp driving 3-bladed variable pitch propellers, but it was found to be too slow for most applications. The second prototype replaced the 14Rs with two SNECMA-built Bristol Hercules 738/9 2,040 hp engines driving four-bladed propellers, and this model was rechristened the Nord 2501. DTI ordered 3 more preproduction Nord 2501s, which they flight-tested extensively against the similar Fairchild C-82 Packet. The N-2501 was found superior, and the first 34 were ordered on July 10, 1951.

After an eventual production run of some 425 planes, the last Noratlas was constructed in 1961.

The Noratlas Nord 2501 gained fame during the Suez Crisis of 1956, when the French paras dropped over the south of Port Said, and Port Fouad in Egypt. Its history started four years earlier.

1952 was marked by the unfortunate crash of the first Nord 2501 prototype as it underwent further testing, and on January 9, 1953, the Nord 2501 was baptized the Noratlas by the widow of the pilot killed in the crash. Despite this setback, the program was able to fulfill its initial contract for 34 planes by June 25, 1953, and the Armée de l'Air went on to order another 174 planes, for a total of 208.

These were initially overwhelmingly cargo planes, though 10 were ordered fitted out for passengers; however, following the conclusion of operations in Algeria in 1962, many were converted to other roles (detailed below). Of these modifications, the eight Nord Gabriels (an electronic warfare platform) were useful the longest, and it was the last of this type that was finally phased out in 1989 by the Armée de l'Air.

Nord Aviation N 2501D Noratlas at the Technik Museum, Speyer, Germany

West Germany, faced with the same situation that had prompted the development of the Noratlas, eventually ordered a total of 186 Noratlases from 1956 on, of which 25 were built in France, and the other 161 manufactured in West Germany by Flugzeugbau Nord (a satellite company) under contract. These last were designated N-2501D. The Luftwaffe began selling its Noratlases in 1964, and is the source for most of the planes for the smaller national operators listed below.

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) initially purchased three examples of the N-2501IS in 1956, but under duress -- the French government would only allow them to purchase 12 Dassault Ouragans if they purchased three Noratlases as well. The Israelis were upset by the terms of the offer, but France was one of very few countries willing to sell them arms, and eventually they knuckled under. However, they quickly realized the utility of the Noratlas following its performance in the Suez Crisis, and purchased another three N-2501ISs in 1959, and 16 N-2501Ds before the Six-Day War. These were primarily intended for cargo and paratroop transport, but there are reports that several were put to more unconventional use as bombers on long-range strikes into Egypt, much as the contemporary C-130s deployed the Daisy Cutter bomb in Vietnam. It is also known that the IAF used their Noratlases for maritime reconnaissance at the outset of the Six-Day War, and one of these identified the USS Liberty prior to the strafing of the ship. The IAF phased the Noratlas out in 1978, and the bulk of their fleet was sold to the Greek (Hellenic) Air Force.[citation needed]

In 1970, the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) received 50 Noratlas aircraft from Germany as WWII compensations. These Noratlas were based in Elefsis AFB near to Athens at the 354 Tactical Airlift Squadron (112th Tactical Fighter Wing - Pterix Mahis. Hellenic Air Force's 354th Sqdr Noratlas were used in the air transportation operation of the 1st Greek Rangers Squadron from Crete (Souda) to Cyprus (Nicosia) at the night of 21st to 22 July 1974 during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. In spite of the aging aircraft and the adverse flying conditions, 12 of the 15 aircraft which participated in the mission "Nike" (Victory in Greek), managed to land on the airport of Nicosia. The Greek 1st Rangers Squadron managed to keep the National Airport of Nicosia in the UN hands and did not surrender to the Turkish Brigade who attacked the airport.

The N-2502A/B, which added two small Turbomeca Marboré IIE turbojets at the wingtips, was used primarily by civil operators such as Union Aéromaritime du Transport (N-2502A) and CGTA-Air Algérie (N-2502B), but never found the success of the military versions, and only ten were built. The Portuguese Air Force purchased six militarized N-2502As (designated N-2502F) over 1961-1962 as well.

Specifications (Nord N-2501)

General characteristics

* Crew: 4-5
* Capacity: 45 soldiers, 36 paratroopers, 18 patients with medics, or cargo
* Length: 72 ft 1 in (21.96 m)
* Wingspan: 106 ft 8 in (32.5 m)
* Height: 19 ft 8 in (6.0 m)
* Wing area: 1089 ft (101.2 m)
* Empty weight: 28,825 lb (13,075 kg)
* Useful load: 18,647 lb (8,458 kg)
* Max takeoff weight: 48,500 lb (22,000 kg)
* Powerplant: 2¥ SNECMA-manufactured Bristol Hercules 738/739 radial engine, 2,040 hp (1,520 kW) each


* Maximum speed: 251 mph (405 km/h) under full load
* Cruise speed: 199 mph (320 km/h) at 1,500 meters
* Range: 1,550 mi (2,500 km)
* Service ceiling 23,300 ft (7,100 m)
* Rate of climb: 1,080 ft/min (5.5 m/s)

See also

* Armstrong Whitworth AW.660 Argosy
* Blackburn Beverley
* C-119 Flying Boxcar


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