Dassault Étendard & Super Étendard

Dassault is mainly known for the Mirage family of fighters, and nowadays the Rafale. However, the company also made jet fighters to be operated from aircraft carriers, the Étendard and Super Étendard. Both aircraft have swept wings passing through the fuselage just below the middle. They also both have a cruciform tail, much alike the Mystère-Falcon 20 business jet, but with a nearly triangular vertical fin like on the Mirages. Finally, the air intakes at the side of the fuselage are semi-circles with no conical shock cone like on the Mirages. This combination of characteristics makes relatively easy to identify these fighters.

Different versions

The different versions of the (Super) Étendard can be distinguished by looking at:

  • the shape of the nose
  • the shape of the air intakes
  • the shape of the canopy
  • the number of engines
  • the length of the exhaust

Étendard II

The Étendard was the result of several studies of which some did not progress beyond the drawing table. The first to actually fly was the twin engine Étendard II (also known as Mystère XXII). It shares the main features of the Étendard family as described above, but the air intakes resemble more a rectangle with two rounded corners than a semi-circle. Additionally, the Étendard II has a very pointed nose and a bubble canopy.

This is what the only Étendard II looked like. Note the sharply pointed nose and bubble canopy.

Étendard IV

Another project that flew was the single engine Étendard IV, formerly known as Mystère XXIV. It is similar to the Étendard II, but with a more recessed canopy, a wider diameter nose (still with a sharp point), semi circular air intakes without a splitter plate in front and of course a single engine. 

The Étendard IV prototype still has a pointed nose, but the canopy is somewhat recessed. Moreover, the air intakes have no splitter plate in front, although this is difficult to see.

Étendard IVM

Two versions of the Étendard IV were produced for the French navy, of which the Étendard IVM (M of Marine) was the main version used for interception and ground attack. Compared to the prototype it received a very typical strake down from the tip of the nose. When seen from the front, they give the front of the Étendard IVM the appearance of the head a small lizard with a crest under their chin. In addition, the IVM has narrow rectangular splitter plates in front of the inner side of the intakes.

Not seen on any other fighter is the vertical strake under the nose of the Étendard IVM, so that is one of the main recognition points of this version. Also note the narrow rectangular splitter late in front of the air intake.

Étendard IVP

The other production version of the Étendard IV was a reconnaissance version, dubbed Étendard IVP (of Photo). It is very similar to the IVM, except for the nose. There is a fixed refueling probe entending from the tip of the nose. Furthermore, the windows for the cameras are visible at the lower sides of the nose and underneath the probe.

The refuelling probe extending from the nose and the cameras windows are the key features of the Étendard IVP. (photo: Steve Fitzgerald/WikiMedia)

Étendard VI

The last Étendard development aircraft was the Étendard VI or Mystère XXVI. The main difference compared to the Étendard IV was the use of another engine, with a longer exhaust, that extends further beyond the vertical stabiliser.

The Orpheus engine of the Étendard VI has a an exhaust pipe that extends well aft of the vertical stabiliser.

Super Étendard

The ultimate Étendard was the Super Étendard, a significantly modified Étendard IVM. It is supposed to have newly designed wings, but on the outside they do not seem so different. More apparent is the wider diameter, less pointed nose without the typical vertical strake of the IVM and IVP models. The final clear diffference is in the two-piece nose gear door in front of the nose gear leg, that folds at a 90 degree angle when the gear is extended.

The nose of the Super Étendard has a larger diameter than that of the Étendard IV, and no fins at the top and bottom. Note the folded extended part of the nose gear door.

The typical cruciform tail of the Super Étendard is one of the key recognition points of the whole family.

Confusion possible with

Dassault Mirage 3/5

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Being from the same manufacturer you would expect some similarities and indeed the vertical stabiliser, canopy and gear show similarities. However, the Mirages have delta wings, no horizontal stabilisers and conical shock cones in the air intakes.

Dassault Mystère family

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The Dassault (Super) Mystère has nearly the same tail and wings as the (Super) Étendard, but an oval air intake in the nose. (photo Mike Freer - Touchdown-aviation/WikiMedia)