Facts about the Transall C-160

The Transall C-160 is a military transport aircraft developed by a consortium of French and German aircraft manufacturers for the air forces of those two nations and that of South Africa.

The C-160 was originally conceived as a replacement for the Armée de l'Air's Nord Noratlas fleet. It is turboprop-powered and of conventional configuration for aircraft of this type, with high wings, and a loading ramp built into the rear of the fuselage. Size-wise, it falls between the Aeritalia G.222 and the C-130 Hercules.

Three prototypes flew in 1963, followed by pre-production machines in 1965 and production machines from 1967. The first batch included 110 C-160Ds for the Luftwaffe, 50 C-160Fs for the Armée de l'Air, and 9 C-160Zs for the South African Air Force, 4 C-160Fs were converted to air mail transport aircraft, they were operated by Air France and given the designation C-160P. Production continued until 1972 with French aircraft built by Aérospatiale and German aircraft by Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm.

In 1977, the Armée de l'Air ordered an updated version (designated C-160NG, for Nouvelle Generation - "New Generation"). From 1981, 29 of these aircraft were delivered, half of them configured as tanker aircraft for aerial refuelling. Another 4 were configured as C-160H TACAMO aircraft, for communication with submerged submarines. Finally, 2 more were converted to SIGINT electronic surveillance aircraft, designated C-160G Gabriel, replacing the Noratlases that had been in this role previously. While still new, the C-160Gs took part in the Gulf War of 1991.

From 1994 to 1999, all French C-160s underwent an avionics upgrade and the addition of new anti-missile countermeasures. The C-160Fs and NGs so updated were redesignated C-160R (Renove - "renovated"). Luftwaffe machines have similarly undergone life-extension programmes by BAE Systems, but all French and German machines are reaching the end of their service lives as of 2004. All South African machines have already been retired, while the Turkish Air Force continues to operate 20 machines obtained from Germany (C-160T).