On this day, in 1981, the Falcon “Gardian” made its first flight in Bordeaux-Mérignac under the control of Hervé Leprince-Ringuet (pilot) and Jean-Marie Barthelemy (test flight engineer).
In June 1977, the French Navy had to take account of its increased need for maritime surveillance equipment, following the progressive extension of the French economic exclusion zone up to 200 miles. To perform its maritime patrol and maritime surveillance missions, replacing the Lockheed P-2H Neptunes which had reached the end of their service life in the 9 S and 12 S squadrons in the Pacific, the Naval Air Arm needed an aircraft capable of flying fast and changing altitude rapidly if the need arose. For safety reasons, it had to be a twin-engine design, capable of rapidly reaching a distant location and of covering an extensive maritime zone in the minimum time, and fitted with reliable and robust high-performance navigation and detection systems. In view of the need to operate in hot and humid conditions, the Naval Air Arm also wanted an aircraft requiring little maintenance and straightforward flight preparation.
Building on its experience with the HU-25 A Guardian, Dassault proposed to the French Navy a light twin adapted to the maritime surveillance mission and meeting the above criteria.
The Gardian was equipped with a navigation and surveillance suite including a Varan radar, adapted to the detection of small objects in heavy sea states, a Crouzet navigation system to visualise the tactical and geographical situation, a computer and automatic navigation table. A hatch was provided to air-drop rescue equipment, markers and, if need be, personnel. It was fitted with two large observation windows and four under-wing hardpoints capable of carrying significant loads (various sensors, target towing and countermeasures).
The aircraft were designed for four types of mission:
- Search and rescue (SAR);
- Enforcement of laws and treaties (ELT);
- Maritime environmental protection (MEP);
- Maritime and scientific activities (MSA).