The Nord 1500 Griffon was a hybrid ramjet / turbo jet powered experimental
fighter aircraft developed in France by Nord Aviation. The 1500 Griffon
was designed to fulfil a French military requirement for a high speed
(Mach 2+) interceptor.
The origins of the Nord 1500 Griffon began in the late 1940s, with
studies into high-speed delta wing aircraft. However it wasn't until
the mid-50s that the Griffon project really began to gather pace.
In 1953 two prototypes of the aircraft were ordered.
The aircraft were primarily constructed using lightweight metal alloys.
The shape of the Nord 1500 Griffon was partially dictated by the dual
engine configuration. The cockpit sat almost directly above the large
oval air intake which fed air to the turbojet engine and also the
The idea was that the relatively underpowered turbojet would be used
for takeoff and low speed maneuvers. This is because of the nature
of ramjet engines and the fact they cannot operate at zero airspeed.
Once in the air, and at speeds above 600 mph, the ramjet could be
started and carry the aircraft up to speeds in excess of Mach 2.
The first prototype constructed was never fitted with the ramjet engine,
and instead it was used to analyse and assess the validity of the
airframe and aerodynamics. It took to the skies for the first time
in September 1955 and provided valuable data for the project.
The second prototype was however fitted with the key component, the
Nord Strato-Reacteur ram jet unit, which was capable of producing
15,290 lbs of thrust - nearly double that of the turbojet engine.
The second prototype first flew in January 1957, and shortly after,
in April of the same year, the first prototype was retired while testing
continued with the ramjet equipped aircraft.
With Major Andre Turcat at in the cockpit, the Nord 1500 Griffon managed
to achieve a top speed of Mach 2.19 (1,450 mph), exceeding the original
However there were issues with the design. The airframe suffered from
high temperatures due to the lack of temperature resistant materials
in the design. In addition the ramjet was found to be problematic
at mid-range speeds.
A production version of the aircraft was proposed which was intended
to offer a top speed over Mach 3. However simpler, cheaper, yet equally
high performance jet aircraft such as the Dassault Mirage III proved
to be the final nail in the coffin and the program was eventually
The second prototype was persevered and is currently on display in
the French Air and Space Museum at Le Bourget near Paris.