The Super Etendard is a carrier-based single-seat strike fighter first introduced into service in 1978. It is an updated version of the Etendard IVM. Based on experience gained during the Korean war (1950-53), French authorities drew up specifications for a light interceptor. This definition was rapidly assimilated into a program for a light tactical bomber that could also fulfil an air superiority mission. At the same time, NATO published its requirements for the LWTSF (Light Weight Tactical Strike Fighter). In response, the Dassault company presented its Mirage and Etendard aircraft.
To meet the needs of both national and NATO programs, Dassault carried over the aerodynamic design of its Super-Mystère, applying it to smaller aircraft equipped with power plants that could reach transonic speeds without afterburners.
This led to the design of the Mystère XXII (Etendard II), Mystère XXIV (Etendard IV) and Mystère XXVI (Etendard VI), developments which were remarkable for improving lift so that take-off and landing became possible at reduced speeds.
The Etendard IV M was the first naval aircraft developed by Dassault. The Etendard IV M made its maiden flight 21st May 1958 at Melun-Villaroche (the Seine-et-Marne region of France). The wings of the aircraft are mid-mounted, swept-back, and tapered with blunt tips there are sawtooth in the leading edges. There is one turbojet engine inside the body. There are semicircular air intakes below the canopy and a single exhaust. The fuselage has a long, pointed nose. The body bulges at the air intakes and tapers to the rear. There is a bubble canopy well forward on the nose. The dorsal spine extends from the cockpit to midbody. The tail is large, swept-back, and tapered tail fin with curved tip. The flats are low- to mid-mounted on the tail fin, swept-back, and tapered with blunt tips.
Between 1961 and 1965, the French Navy took delivery of 69 Etendard IV M's and 21 Etendard IV P's. The Etendard IV M continued in service in the French Navy until July 1991. These aircraft logged a total of 180,000 flying hours and made 25,300 carrier landings. Even today, there are still several Etendard IV P's and IV PM's in service.
The naval single-seater combat aircraft, Dassault Super-Etendard, is a modernized version of the Etendard IV M. Main modifications include updating of the weapons system through the installation (a first for a French production aircraft) of a modern navigation and combat management system. The aircraft prototype made its maiden flight 28 October 1974 at Istres (the Bouches-du-Rhône region of France).
The French Navy commissioned the plane for the first time in 1977 and 71 aircraft are now in service on the aircraft carriers Foch and Clemenceau. This plane, armed with Exocet missiles and flown by Argentinian pilots (14 aircraft), proved its combat effectiveness during the Malvinas [Falklands] war with Britain in 1982.
The Super-Etendard will be replaced by the naval version of the multi-role combat aircraft Rafale at the beginning of the 21st century.
The Argentine Naval Aviation decided to buy 14 Super Étendards in 1980, after the United States put an arms embargo in place—due to the Dirty War—and refused to supply spare parts for their A-4Q Skyhawks. Assigned to 2nd Naval Air Fighter/Attack Squadron, Argentine pilots used French flight trainers between November 1980 and August 1981 in France, but at the time of the Falklands War, they had received only 45 hours of actual flight time in the aircraft. Between August and November 1981, five Super Étendards and five Exocets were shipped to Argentina. All five of the missiles were used during the conflict, with one missile hitting the British destroyer HMS Sheffield and two the merchant aircraft transporter Atlantic Conveyor. Two missiles were used in each of those attacks.
The fifth missile was launched in an attack intended to strike against the British aircraft carrier HMS Invincible but the attacking aircraft failed to find their target. (A sixth Exocet, which was fired from an improvised land based launcher failed to acquire a target, but the seventh missile hit and the warhead detonated causing casualties and damage to HMS Glamorgan. This launcher was designed by Argentine technicians.)
Once the conflict was over, Super Etendards performed qualifications on aircraft carrier ARA 25 de Mayo until the ship's final retirement  From 2001, qualifications are made on Brazilian Navy carrier São Paulo  and/or touch-and-go on US Navy carriers during Gringo-Gaucho maneuvers when they are in transit within Argentine coastal waters.
As of 2010, Argentine Super Étendards are still in service  and French cooperation to upgrade the aircraft was announced.
Super Etendard in the Falklands
In September 1980, fifty pilots and technician personnel of the 2ª Escuadrilla Aeronaval de Caza y Ataque (2nd Air Naval Fighter and Strike Squadron) of the CANA (Comando de Aviación Naval Argentina, Argentine Naval Aviation Command) arrived at Rochefort Naval Base, in France. Among the group of pilots were the unit's commander, Frigate Captain Jorge Colombo, and sub-commander, Corvette Captain Augusto Bedacarratz. The rest of the pilots were: Corvette Captains Roberto Agotegaray, Roberto Curilovic and Alejandro Francisco, and Warship Lieutenants Luis Collavino, Julio Barrraza, Juan Rodriguez Mariani, Armando Mayora and Carlos Machetanz. All the pilots had hundreds of hours flying A-4Q Skyhawks (the main type of combat plane used by the CANA by that time).
After three months of French language teaching, they were sent to Landivisiau Air Naval Base, where they flew training sorties in Morane Saulnier planes during 30 days and then began to know their future combat tool - the AMD-BA (Avions Marcel Dassault - Breguet Aviation) Super Etendard. Later, the Argentine pilots started to learn the basic flight lessons in the Super Etendard (a maximum of 50 hours of flight by each pilot) and basic notions about the weapon systems, especially the anti-ship missile AM.39 Exocet. The technical specifications of them are:
AMD-BA Super Etendard: AMD-BA Super Etendard
Engine: turbojet SNECMA Atar 8K-50 with a throtle of 5.000 kilograms.
AM.39 Exocet AM.39 Exocet
Type: airborne "fire and forget" anti-ship missile.
To attack a ship with the AM.39 version is a work of two stages: first, the missile is guided by the plane's fire control system, which gives to the missile the target's coordinates and these coordinates are obtained by the plane's radar. When the missile is launched, it dives to an altitude of 30 meters, which is later fixed at only 2.5 meters by the missile's radio altimeter. In the few final seconds of flight, the missile activates its own radar and searches for the target. If it finds any, the missile locks on to it and guides itself to the impact point.
The Argentine pilots and technicians returned to Comandante Espora Air Naval Base (Buenos Aires Province, Argentina) in July 1981 and began the preparation for arrival of the first five Super Etendards, which finally happened in November 1981. The Argentine Navy had ordered a total number of 14 aircraft, and the same number of Exocets. The Argentine pilots tested the navigation system of the five planes as much as they could, and started to do the same with the weapon system.
The War Began
But on April 2nd 1982, when the 2nd Squadron was waiting the arrival of the French technical team to put the Exocets in an operational status, Argentina performed the military reconquest of the Falklands Islands - called Malvinas in Spanish language - usurped by the British government in 1833. One of the first acts of the French government was to declare a weapons embargo against Argentina until the conflict ended.
Of course, it deprived the 2nd Squadron of the possibility of being assisted by French technicians but the Argentine personnel of the unit, far from giving up, faced on their own the challenge to set up the Exocets. Two weeks later, the interface between airplane and missile had been solved, and the tests on anti-ship strikes began. Fortunately for the Argentineans, the country had bought from Great Britain two Type 42 destroyers (the same class used by the Royal Navy), the ARA Hércules and ARA Santísima Trinidad. In consequence, the unit's pilots tested and improved the attack tactics against these kinds of ships.
On May 1st 1982, The RAF and Royal Navy planes attacked the main Argentine airfields and positions in the islands. The Argentine Navy organized a combined strike against the British aircraft carriers: eight A-4Qs belonging to the 3rd Air Naval Fighter and Strike Squadron on board the Argentine carrier, ARA Veinticinco de Mayo, and two Super Etendards from Río Grande Air Naval Base would attack at the same time on May 2nd. But that day both arms of the attack had problems; the naval Skyhawks needed a minimum wind to help them take off from the carrier, and unexpectedly the wind, normally strong in the South Atlantic, did not blow. On the 2nd Squadron's side, both Super Etendards, piloted by the unit commander, Jorge Colombo, and his wingman Carlos Machetanz, were affected by problems that did not allow them to receive fuel from the KC-130H Hercules tanker. Later that same day the British submarine HMS Conqueror sunk the Argentine cruiser ARA General Belgrano and forced the Argentine Sea Fleet to come back to Puerto Belgrano Naval Base.