In 1948, Fouga designed a jet-powered primary trainer for the French Air Force (Armée de l'Air, AdA) to replace piston-engined Morane-Saulnier MS.475 aircraft.
When AdA found the aircraft lacking in power from the two Turbomeca Palas turbojets, Fouga enlarged the basic design and used the more powerful Turbomeca Marboré engine. The distinctive V-tail of the new CM.170 Magister originated on the CM.8 glider Fouga was using to experiment with jet engines.
In December 1950, AdA ordered three prototypes, with the first aircraft flying on 23 July 1952. A pre-production batch of 10 were ordered in June 1953 followed by the first production order for 95 aircraft on 13 January 1954. Fouga built a new assembly plant at Toulouse-Blagnac to produce the aircraft. The aircraft entered service with AdA in 1956. The French Navy's Aeronavale adopted a derivative of the Magister, the CM.175 Zéphyr, as a basic trainer for deck landing training and carrier operations.
In 1958-1959, Finland purchased 18 Fouga Magisters from France. At the same time they also obtained a manufacturing license. The Finnish aircraft manufacturer Valmet (the Finnish equivalent to United Technologies or Lockheed Martin) later built 82 Fouga aircraft between 1958–67.
The Museum's Fouga is No. 80 from Valmet. The aircraft was a jet trainer in the Finnish Air Force between 1958-1988. The museum aircraft is currently undergoing an annual inspection and will return to flight shortly. One rather unique feature of the Magister is the use of a binocular periscope in the back seat for pilot vision. Other manufactures have used a series of mirrors for vision blocks, but this aircraft uses the binocular periscope. It gives the aircraft one more unusual feature.
In contemporary literature regarding the performance of the aircraft a method of economy cruise is described in which one of the engines is shut down at altitude and the aircraft continues to perform within 20 kts of normal cruise speed. Much of this ability is due to the wing design. Based upon the CM-8 glider, the aircraft provides exceptional engine out performance.
In addition, many nations purchased Magisters for trainer and light-attack duties. In the latter role, the aircraft could be fitted with two 7.5-mm or 7.62-mm machine guns in the nose (the museum Fouga is so designed, with covered gun ports), several combinations of underwing rocket pods or freefall bombs, and even Nord AS.11 air-to-surface missiles. Israel proved the Magister's combat worth during the Six Day War in June 1967, when the Magister flew ground attack missions in Egypt and Jordan.
The Magister design did not change much throughout its production life. The most significant upgrade, the CM-170-2, was fitted with Turbomecca Marbore VI engines, which gave the airplane a 350-pound increase in thrust over the earlier Marbore IIs, resulting in a higher useful load and greater climb rate. The more powerful engines were also used in the CM-170-3 Super Magister, operated by the Irish Air Corps as a light attack/trainer well into the 1990s.
More information and pictures of the Museum's Fouga can be found on the museum's CM-170 web page.