The French concern of Breguet Aviation was awarded a 1958 NATO-sponsored contract to design, develop and produce a new purpose-built airframe to replace the 1940s-era Lockheed P-2 “Neptune” in the long-range maritime reconnaissance role. Some 24 contending designs were submitted from as many as nine contractors with the resulting selected design becoming the Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic.
A joint development contract was drawn up in February 1959, which provided for work on the Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic to be financed by Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the USA, although only France and Germany were at that time indicating an interest in acquiring the new MR type in operational quantities. Belgian and Dutch interest was maintained as a means of obtaining a share in the production programme for indigenous companies, while US financing was part of that nation’s general support for NATO
Delivery to the Royal Netherlands Navy (MLD)
The Royal Netherlands Navy had shown an interest in fifteen BreguetBr.1150 Atlantic aircraft at the beginning of the development process. But it took some time until the interest in the Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic crystallised in to an order towards the end of 1960, just as production of the initial run of 60 was about to be completed.
The purchase of nine was linked to the formation of a new squadron to help to fill the gap left by the decommission of the aircraft carrier Karel Doorman.
As the need was urgent four Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic’s where diverted from the production line for early use by the Royal Netherlands Navy pending deliveries from the re-opened production line. With the Dutch designation SP-13A (the MLD, unlike its land-based counterpart the Royal Netherlands Air force, assigns its own designations to its current aircraft), the Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic were issued serial 250 to 258.
The first four Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic’s where delivered in 1996 to Nimes-Garon where the first Dutch crews underwent training before delivery to 321 Squadron at Valkenburg NAS. These aircraft were supplemented by five new-production Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic’s by January 1971.
The operational period started with the delivery of four Breguet Br.1150Atlantic to Nimes-Garon, these aircraft where drown from the production line and where originally intended for France and Germany. As training progressed at Nimes-Garon the first four aircraft (250 to 253) where officially delivered to the Dutch navy on June 26th 1969, After the movement of these Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic to Valkenburg NAS 321squadron was officially reinstated on august 8th 1969, with the delivery of these aircraft the Dutch navy had its first real sub hunter in-service.
In the following year the squadron had some problems with spare part and corrosion, resulting in a poor operational status. From 1971 the squadron started too participated in exercises at St Mawgan, Lann Bidouext. In the following year the squadron reached its full operational status and a first deployment to Hato in the Caribbean was made. In the following year the squadron worked up to the full potential off the Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic participating in more exercises and air shows.
On April 16th 1973 the crew off Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic 254 made an endurance and distance record on the type with a flight off 4902 miles in 18 hours. A few months later the first Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic was lost on August 15th when 257 made a controlled crash landing off the coast from Wassenaar. After the control was lost to a faulty elevator control, the crew decided to make a crash landing on the water because this was considered safer than landing at Valkenburg due to the nature of the problem. The crew was quickly rescued by the local lifeguards and the plane was towed to Den Helder. Ones on shore the damage was concluded to be beyond repair.
In the following years there where the usual exercises and deployments and participations to air shows. In 1977 a second plane the 253 was lost to an engine problem during exercise ‘Northern wedding’ east of Scotland. Like in the first accident a controlled crash landing was made without any fatalities. In the next years the squadron did its thing in monitoring the Soviet fleet in the Atlantic looking for submarines and gathering data on new surface vessels. Even with the small fleet off seven aircraft the squadron did well.
Sadly this period was followed by an other crash on January 18th 1981 involving 255, again due to a faulty elevator control. During this crash the plane broke apart and not all the crew was able to reach the life rafts and sadly three crew members died in the event.
After the accident with the Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic 255 flying was halted for over a year as modifications where studied end made for the remaining aircraft. The proposed modification was a temporary solution until a bigger proposed modification to the controls was accepted by all partners in the project, making the systems redundant. As the other partners decided there was no need for this modification the decision was made to retiree the Atlantic with the introduction of the P-3 Orion.
Squadrons equipped with the BR1150 Atlantic
This squadron was founded during the war as a part of the British Fleet Air Arm. The AVRO Anson was used by the Dutch personnel, usually people who had fled for the German occupation of their country. The tasks of321 squadron were coastal patrol and anti-submarine warfare. Due to lack of personnel the squadron had to be temporarily disbanded on January 18, 1941.
As many airmen had fled the Japanese occupied Dutch East Indies, and had gathered in Ceylon, the squadron was re-activated at Trincomalee in March 1942. With Catalina flying boats and amphibians anti-submarine missions were flown, also during detachments in Port Elisabeth and Aden. From 1944 the Catalina’s were supplemented by Consolidated B-24HLiberators.
After VJ day 321 squadron dropped supplies for the thousands of internees in the POW camps in the Dutch East Indies. Later the squadron provided aerial reconnaissance and transport for the Government. For this task a number of Dakotas were used in addition to the Catalina’s.
After the independence of Indonesia the squadron moved to Dutch New Guinea, at Biak air base. During the hostilities in New Guinea, 321s Neptune’s were operated in anti-shipping missions. On December 28, 1962the squadron was disbanded and its SP-2Hs went to Holland to serve there as the new nucleus for 320 Squadron.
In 1969 after the procurement of nine Breguet SP-13a Atlantic’s 321squadron was activated again. During its period whit the Breguet Br.1150Atlantic the squadron lost three aircraft due to an engine fire and problems with the rudder. The last was also the reason for the early retirement of the Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic in 1984. From there the squadron transited to the Lockheed P-3 Orion. First in the active role and from 1993 in the training role after the disbandment of VAQ2 until the end of the Lockheed P-3 service with the MLD in 2005 at which point the squadron was disbanded..
End of the line
Operationally speaking the Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic met the needs, but there were corrosion problems. The last Dutch Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic was retired from service in 1984, being succeeded by the Lockheed P-3C Orion (this type was also an initial candidate for the MPA in the early sixties…).
The remaining Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic were sold to France.