Dassault-Breguet/Dornier Alpha Jet

France and Germany teamed up when they were looking for a new ad­vanced jet trainer and close air support aircraft respectively. The winning design was that of Dassault and Breguet in France and Dornier in Germany, called the Alpha Jet.

The Alpha Jet has high, swept wings with horizontal stabilisers in regular position, both with anhedral. The student and instructor sit behind each other in the cockpit, the instructor higher than the student. The canopy opens in two parts, for each crew member separately. The semi-circular air intakes are below the instructor's seat. After that the air channels run below the wings; there is space between them. The exhausts with externally visible pipes are just in front of the vertical stabiliser, which has hardly a dorsal fin. 

The student and instructor pilot each have a separate part of the canopy that can open upward (photo: Szalay Gábor István/WikiMedia).

The air flow channels for the engines are below the wings. There is some space between them, marked by the arrows.

The externally visible exhaust pipes of the Larzac engines of the Alpha Jet are just in front of the tail.

Different versions

The main external recognition point between the Alpha Jet versions is the shape of the nose.

Alpha Jet A & Alpha Jet MS1

The Alpha Jet A (for Appui Tactique) is the light attack, or close air support version of the Alpha Jet, originally ordered by Germany, but later also by other countries. In Egypt locally produced aircraft are designated Alpha Jet MS1. Both are recognised by the sharply pointed nose with pitot tube.

The Alpha Jet A has a sharply pointed nose, with a pitot tube at the front.

A detail of the nose of the Alpha Jet A, with its sharply pointed nose cone with pitot tube.

Alpha Jet E

The E in this basic version, first ordered by France, stands for École, so is clearly is the trainer version. It is recognised by the rounded nose. The Belgians also ordered this version and called it Alpha Jet 1B.

This Alpha Jet 1B of the Belgian air force acts as an example of the Alpha Jet E basic model.

The Alpha Jet E has a rounded nose cone as main recognition point.

Alpha Jet MS2, Alpha Jet 2 & Alpha Jet NGAE

Based on the Alpha Jet MS1 an updated version was made, called the Alpha Jet MS2. It has a cut off pointed nose as key feature. The Alpha Jet 2, at first known as Alpha Jet NGAE (Nouvelle Generation Appui/Ecole), was the Dassault developed modernised version, of which only a prototype was built.

The Alpha Jet MS2 has a slightly modified nose as recognition point. (photo Stephan de Bruijn)

A detail of the nose of the Alpha Jet MS2. (crop of a photo provided by Mat Herben)

Confusion possible with

Kawasaki T-4

kawasaki t 4

The Kawasaki T-4 is obviously a look-a-like of the Alpha Jet. The air intakes of the T-4 are rectangular though, and the air flow channel is attached to the wings. Also the vertical fin is higher and has a triangular dorsal fin. Finally the canopy opens sideways as a single piece.

PZL I-22 Iryda

pzl m 96

Like on the Alpha Jet, on the Iryda there is space between the wings and engine air flow channels. The air takes of the I-22 are more rectangular than semi circular and also closer to the wing leading edge. The engines have no visible exhaust pipes.

Aermacchi M346 Master


The M346 is a mid-wing aircraft, while the Alpha Jet has definately high moun­ted wings. Also the air intakes have a different shape and the M346 has leading edge root exten­sions of the wings along the fuselage.

FMA IA-63 Pampa

ia 63

The design of the FMA Pampa is clearly in­fluenced by that of the Alpha Jet, probably because Dassault helped FMA in the development. The Pampa is smaller though, has straight wings and only one engine.

SIAI-Marchetti S211 & Leonardo M345

s211 m345

In many ways this aircraft looks like the the Alpha Jet, but it is smaller and has one engine. There are smaller differences as well, such as horizontal stabilisers, canopy and nose gear doors.

British Aerospace Harrier

s211 m345

The tandem canopy, high wings and semi-circular air intakes of the two seat Harriers are similar to those of the Alpha Jet, but for the rest the Harrier is significantly different: the exhausts at the side of the fuselage and the tandem main landing gear are the most obvious ones.