In the beginning
At the turn of last century, the area of Argenteuil was home to one of the largest hubs of France’s budding automobile industry. Lorraine-Dietrich opened a plant there in 1907. In 1915, it started building aircraft engines as its contribution to war efforts, and after the war it came to be acknowledged as one of the most respected engine manufacturers.
On July 28, 1951, Marcel Dassault and Henry Potez – by then well-known aircraft manufacturers – each rented a part of the Lorraine facility. Dassault’s electrical equipment workshop moved there from Saint Cloud on September 15, and the MD 304 “propeller-assembly” workshop followed at the end of November.
That same year, Dassault bought the old 63 000 sq.m. Lorraine facility. Those premises were ill-suited and bombing had left them ramshackle. After large-scale repairing and rebuilding work, the Ouragan tailfin production team moved from Saint Cloud to Argenteuil in 1952, to join the serial fuselage production operation already based there.
Dassault bought the plant Potez had used in 1971, completing his installation in that site.
As programs progressed…
January 1953 brought Argenteuil its first fuselage project, the Mystère IV A. The first fuselage was delivered in March 1954, 14 months after it was launched. Those were the heroic days that saw the Argenteuil plant consolidate its specialization and rise to become a prominent link in Dassault’s industrial chain. The Mystère IV, Super Mystère B2, Mirage III, Mirage IV, Mirage F-1, Mirage 2000, Falcon 900, Mirage 2000-5 and Rafale fuselages were subsequently manufactured there.
A pre-production MD 620 missile was produced there in 1964. Ten or so components were built before the 1967 embargo.
1965 saw the initial moves to set up a chemical milling operation. The Mirage F-1 thus became the first aircraft to use chemically-contoured coating panels. The light-alloy and plastic chemical milling workshops were built in 1966 and 1967.
Technical systems to design, produce and manage production developed at a staggering pace over the 1980s. Starting with the Mirage 2000 in 1979, CAD, CADM, CADAM and then CATIA tools altered the concept of production facilities radically. New technology and equipment inevitably reshaped the way work was organized, streamlining operations into integrated workshops dedicated to a family of parts and having all the tools they need to produce them.
Argenteuil began contributing the Falcon assembly in 1984.
Two recent milestones in Argenteuil’s history came in 1996, when it built its 7000th fuselage, and in 2002, when it celebrated its 50th anniversary.