Transall C-160

Origin: France and West Germany
Type: transport aircraft
Max Speed: 277 kt / 319 mph
Max Range 1,853 km / 1,151 miles
Dimensions: span 40.00 m / 131 ft 2.8 in
length 32.40 m / 106 ft 3.6 in
height 11.65 m / 38 ft 2.7 in
Weight: empty 29,000 kg / 63,934 lb
max. take-off 51,000 kg /
112,436 lb
Powerplant: two 4549-ekW (6,100-ehp) Rolls-Royce Tyne Mk 22 turboprops
Armament: none

Click here for larger view
Line Drawing
Click to enlarge

The Nord Noratlas was a fine and useful aircraft, but of course there came a time when its users wanted something better as a replacement. In January 1959, this desire resulted in the formation of the "Transporter Allianz (Transall)", which was a joint group formed of Aerospatiale of France, along with Messerschmitt-Boelkow-Bohm (MBB) and VFW-Fokker of Germany. There was an attempt to get the Italians involved, but they didn't join up.

The result of this alliance was the "Transall C-160" transport, with three prototypes built, one by each manufacturer in the group. The first prototype flew on 25 February 1963. This led to six preproduction "C-160A" machines, with initial flight in 1965, these aircraft featuring a fuselage stretch of 51 centimeters (20 inches) relative to the three prototypes. Three of the C-160As were evaluated by the AdA, while the other three were evaluated by the Luftwaffe.

Similar production machines followed, beginning in 1967. The C-160 was one of the first successful multinational European aircraft development programs. The C-160 is a neat, competently designed transport of conventional modern cargolifter configuration. It is a twin-engine aircraft, fitted with license-built Rolls-Royce Tyne Mark 22 turboprops providing 6,100 effective horsepower each, driving four-bladed paddle-style propellers 5.49 meters (18 feet) in diameter, on a high-mounted straight wing. Cargo is handled through a hydraulically-operated loading ramp under a high-mounted tail, and there are two passenger-loading doors with built-in steps on the left side of the fuselage.

The C-160 is fitted with tricycle landing gear, with the 2-by-2-wheel main gear assemblies retracting into sponsons alongside the fuselage, leaving the interior cargo area unobstructed. The landing gear is designed for operation from rough airstrips, and its height can be adjusted on the ground to ease cargo loading. Double slotted flaps were fitted to the wing for short-takeoff capability, while spoilers mounted on top of the wing and reversible propeller operation helped reduce landing roll. There was also provision for attaching a booster turbojet with thrust reverser under each wing, but it does not appear that this option was ever implemented.

The C-160 has a crew of four and can carry 93 troops, all in pressurized accommodations; or 81 fully equipped paratroops; or 62 litters with four medical attendants; or a maximum of 16,000 kilograms (35,275 pounds) of cargo. The cargo bay features a winch and a roller system, and floor has tie-down attachments for securing the cargo.

Initial production of the C-160 consisted of 110 "C-160Ds" for the West German Luftwaffe; 50 "C-160Fs" for the French AdA; and 9 "C-160Zs" for South Africa. Four of the French C-160Fs were later converted for operation as mail carriers for Air France, and redesignated "C-160P". 20 of the German C-160Ds were passed on to Turkey as "C-160Ts".

The last of initial C-160 production was completed in 1972, but in 1977 production was reinstated of an improved version, the "C-160 Nouvelle Generation (NG / New Generation)" for France. These machines featured modestly improved avionics, though the AdA insisted that the cockpit layout be compatible with older C-160s; an additional fuel tank in the center section of each wing, doubling the range; reinforced wings to handle the greater weight of fuel; deletion of the forward passenger door, which was not generally used; and (for at least the last ten aircraft) a fixed inflight-refueling probe. All the C-160NGs had a slightly but distinctly extended nose for new radar.

Initial flight of the first C-160NG was on 9 April 1981. A total of 25 were initially ordered. Of these, ten were configured as inflight refueling tankers with hose-and-drogue gear in the left sponson, with five more having provisions for such gear.

Four more C-160NGs were ordered, for a total of 29, with these machines configured with the Rockwell Collins "Take Command And Move Out (TACAMO)" VLF radio system, the same as that used on the US Navy's Boeing E-6A TACAMO platform. The radio system is intended for communications with submerged ballistic missile submarines through a pair of long wire antennas weighted to hang down from the aircraft while it flies in slow circles.

These C-160s were designated the "C-160H Avion Station Relais de Transmissions Exceptionales (ASTARTE). They featured the refueling probe and, interestingly, the hose-and-drogue tanker kit. Initial delivery of this subvariant was in 1987, with introduction to service in 1988.

Two C-160NGs were also converted to the "C-160G Gabriel" signals intelligence (SIGINT) and jamming configuration to replace the older Noratlas N.2501 Gabriel platforms. The C-160Gs are littered with antennas and antenna fairings, including wingtip pods for a "electronic support measures (emitter locator)" system; a "farm" of five blade antennas on top of the forward fuselage; a retractable dome under the forward fuselage; and a blister on each side of the rear fuselage. As with the C-160H Astarte, the two C-160Gs are configured with both refueling probe and hose kit. The C-160Gs saw service in the Gulf War in 1991.

Transall also proposed conversion kits to create several other variants of the C-160 that were never built:

  • The "C-160S" for ocean patrol, which would have had OMERA ORB-32 or Thomson-CSF Varan search radar in a blister under the forward fuselage; a Crouzet Nadir Doppler navigation system; an "electronic support measures", or emitter targeting system, with antennas on the wingtips; OMERA cameras mounted in the fuselage; and observation blisters on the sides of the fuselage.


  • The "C-160ASF" was to be an armed version of the C-160S, with a pylon under each outer wing and on each undercarriage sponson for Exocet antiship missiles or other stores.


  • The "C-160SE" for SIGINT, similar in configuration to the C-160G SIGINT platform.


  • The "C-160AAA" for airborne early warning, which was to be based on the systems for the British Nimrod AEW.3. As the AEW.3 was an embarrassing fiasco that never reached operational service, the C-160AAA was definitely a nonstarter.

In the late 1990s, all 66 C-160 transport variants surviving in AdA service were given an avionics update, including a GPS-INS navigation system, a head-up display, and other kit, and redesignated "C-160R", where the "R" stood for "Renove / Renovated". 22 C-160Rs were then upgraded with a self-defense suite including a radar-warning receiver, missile warning system, and chaff-flare dispensers. The ASTARTE and Gabriel special mission-aircraft were given the same sets of upgrades under a separate program.

Despite the investment in upgrades, all the French C-160s have been heavily tasked and are nearing the end of their service lives. They are being supplemented by Airtech CN-234 twin-turboprop cargolifters, but the CN-235 is substantially smaller than the C-160, being nicknamed the "Transallito" in AdA service, and cannot be a full replacement.

The ideal replacement would be the EADS A-400M, but given the international wrangling over the A-400M, the AdA may have to make do with the all-but-universal Lockheed Martin C-130. The AdA already operates a number of different C-130 variants, and new ones would not be a major adjustment.

A number of German C-160s remain in operation, the Luftwaffe fleet having undergone a service-life extension program in the early 1990s. The Luftwaffe is considering the A400M as a replacement. The Turks were still operating their C-160s at last notice, but the South African machines were retired.