Following the end of World War 2 in 1945, French aero industry had a long, arduous path before it as it worked to recover from the destruction brought onto it by the German invasion and subsequent hard-handed occupation. Some French aircraft and related aviation projects continued in secrecy but most all major developments were stalled until liberation could be had. In the post-war years, there proved some notable moves into bringing French aviation back into the forefront with research-collecting "experimentals" such as the Nord 1601.
Nord Aviation held a history dating back to 1944 and its Nord 1000 "Pingouin" liaison aircraft. Various touring aircraft, light trainers, and test aircraft then emerged once the war and German occupation was officially over. Plans were eventually drawn up for a single-seat, twin-engine, jet-powered fighter to keep with developments in Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union under the Nord 1600 model designation but these came to nothing beyond useful wind tunnel testing. This cleared the way for the Nord 1601 to follow - a purely research-minded airframe.
Nord engineers elected for a centralized, streamlined nacelle with outboard engine nacelles slung under the wing roots, held close to the sides of the fuselage. The cockpit was set aft of a short-length nosecone assembly and backed by a raised fuselage spine. Seated was for two under a two-piece canopy offering fairly good views of the surrounding area. The empennage included a sole vertical tail fin with traditional horizontal planes set along the fuselage. The engine nacelles were long and cylindrical under the wings with their ends jutting past the main wing trailing edges. The wings themselves were of particular note as they included a fair amount of sweep-back (33-degrees) for high speed flight and further featured leading edge slats with flaps along their trailing edge. The undercarriage was of a retractable tricycle design with a very wide track - the single-wheeled nose leg retracted under the nose with the single-wheeled main legs disappearing under the wings outboard of the engine nacelles. Metal was used at the fuselage and the wings for a truly modern approach and heavy use of blending was apparent to help promote inherent aerodynamically efficient qualities. Overall span of the aircraft reached 40.10 feet with a height of 12 feet and length of 38.10 feet. Empty weight was listed at 10,385lb with a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 14,770lb.
Due to the limitations of French industry during this period, several concessions were made in the French design - chief among these was adoption of a British turbojet engine to power the 1601. This fell to 2 x Rolls-Royce Derwent 5 series engines outputting at 4,000lbf each and the engines were set within individual nacelles aspirating at front and exhausting through circular jetpipes at rear. Engineers were sure to have the jet wash clear under the trailing tail planes. Another British product adopted for the 1601 was a Martin-Baker ejection seat to be used as a precaution should things have gone wrong in the air.
The Nord 1601 first took to the air (under a civilian registration number - "F-WFKK") on January 24th, 1950. It served in testing aerodynamics and proved very useful through the data that was collected from the program. The aircraft ultimately exhibited a maximum speed of 622 miles per hour and a service ceiling up to 39,370 feet. Much attention was paid to the swept-back wing arrangement, engine performance, diving exercises and the like. While not furthered into any viable military fighter form, the 1601 was a valuable addition to the reemerging French aviation industry which went on to add excellent products in the ensuing years.
The Nord 1610 was built in only one completed, flyable example. Once its test phase had ended, it was used as a target and destroyed sometime before the end of 1950 - a rather short service tenure for something of an important research aircraft.