In 1958 NATO produced a specification for a long-range maritime patrol aircraft to replace the Lockheed Neptune, with Breguet's design, the Br 1150, chosen as the winner of the competition at the end of the year. A multi-national consortium, Société d'Étude et de Construction de Breguet Atlantic (SECBAT) was set up to develop and build the Atlantic. The first prototype made its maiden flight at Toulouse on 21 October 1961, with the second prototype flying on 25 February 1962, followed by two pre-production aircraft with a longer fuselage in February 1963 and September 1964.
An initial order for 60 Atlantics, 40 for France and 20 for Germany, was placed in 1963, with deliveries starting in 1965 and continuing to 1968. The production line had shut down by the time that the Netherlands placed an order for nine Atlantics and Italy ordered 18. Aircraft from this second production batch were delivered from 1972 to 1974.
In 1978, the French Government authorised development of a new, updated version of the Atlantic, the Atlantic Nouvelle Generation (later known as the Atlantique 2 when orders from other nations did not occur). While airframe and engines of the new aircraft changed little, other equipment and avionics were considerably revised; these included a new radar, a new sonar processor, a replacement tactical computer, and a FLIR turret installed under the nose. The ability to carry Exocet missiles was also added. Two prototype Atlantique 2s were produced by converting existing Atlantics; the first of these made its maiden flight on 8 May 1981. Production of the Atlantique 2 was authorised on 24 May 1984. Deliveries started in 1989, with 28 eventually built, from an original requirement for 42.
By 2012, the Atlantique 2 had been rebranded as the ATL2; at which point France had a total of 22 in service. In 2012, 18 French Atlantiques were undergoing a series of upgrades to increase the type's effectiveness in two stages, Phase I addressing obsolescence issues and Phase II adding new capabilities. Also in 2012, a separate project was conducted to integrate the MU90 Impact torpedo. Aircraft that received these upgrades shall have an extended service life as well, enabling Atlantique operations to be extended to around 2032.
A further upgraded Atlantique 3 was proposed for the Royal Air Force's Replacement Maritime Patrol Aircraft (RMPA) competition, however it was withdrawn in 1996 following alleged hints from Ministry of Defence officials that the submission had was unlikely to be successful, the competition later selected the Nimrod MRA4 instead. The Atlantique 3 would have been featured various off-the-shelf avionics upgrades, including the adoption of a two-man glass cockpit; the use of uprated Allison AE2100H turboprop engines to drive new Dowty-built six-bladed composite propellers reportedly would have increased power by nearly 10% and reduced fuel consumption by 15%. In late 1996, Dassault intended to offer the Altantique 3 to Germany, Italy, and France. By 2005, Dassault had abandoned marketing efforts on the Atlantique 3, choosing to promote a variant of the Dassault Falcon 900 corporate jet as a maritime patrol aircraft instead.
The Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic is a twin-engined, mid-winged monoplane with a "double-bubble" fuselage; the upper lobe comprising a pressurised crew compartment, and the lower lobe housing a 9 m (27 ft 6 in) long weapons bay, with sonobuoy tubes aft of the weapons bay. A radar scanner is housed in a retractable underfuselage radome, while a magnetic anomaly detector is housed in a tail boom. It is powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce Tyne turboprop engines. An all-aluminium structure is used throughout the Atlantic's frame; corrosion is alleged to be a considerable problem due to environmental factors imposed by the maritime environment.
The Atlantic has been designed for its purpose, instead of refitting or modifying existing designs. Though the primary mission of the Atlantic is anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, its secondary role includes search and rescue, mine laying and detection, and long-range maritime surveillance. The Atlantic can carry either eight guided ASW torpedoes such as Mk 46 Torpedo or 12 depth charges or two AM.39 Exocet anti-ship missiles in its internal bomb bay. German Atlantics usually carried Mk 46s only and flew unarmed during the last years of their service. Italian Atlantics have been periodically armed with NATO-provided nuclear bombs.
In French service, modernised Atlantiques have been equipped with various new avionics and onboard sensors. Such systems include the RBE2-AA AESA radar derived from the Dassault Rafale, new digital acoustic processing systems, Thales-built IFF systems, DCNS-developed LOTI (Logiciel Opérationnel de Traitement de l’Information) combat mission software.
- Br.1150 Atlantic
- Atlantique 2
- Atlantique 3