The great story of Dassault's onboard aviation began in 1956. Drawing lessons from the Korean War (1950-1953), the French Air Force staff and the official services drafted specifications for a light interceptor, to which a program for a light tactical support aircraft and armed fighter was quickly added. At the same time, NATO published a tactical support aircraft program. In response, Dassault presented the Étendard.
Dassault kept the aerodynamic formula of the Mystère XX (future Super-Mystère) by applying it to smaller aircraft equipped with engines allowing to reach transonic speeds without using afterburner. The Mystère XXII (Etendard II), Mystère XXIV (Etendard IV) and Mystère XXVI (Etendard VI) were designed in this way, offering significant progress in terms of lift, allowing for reduced takeoff and landing speeds.
As the light twin-engine program was not successful, the French Navy returned to the solution proposed by Dassault in July 1954: to derive a shipborne aircraft from the Mystère XXIV (Étendard IV), which was proposed to the French Air Force. On January 14, 1955, in addition to the light tactical support aircraft program, the Service Technique de l'Aéronautique asked Dassault to study the possibility of using this aircraft as a "low-altitude assault and fighter aircraft".
The Étendard IV M is the first shipborne aircraft studied by Dassault. On this occasion, the company discovered all the problems associated with navalization (behavior at low speeds, catapulting/landing, etc.). The first Étendard IV M flew on May 21, 1958, at Melun-Villaroche, in the hands of Jean-Marie Saget.
The performance and external load carrying capacity of the Étendard IV M make it an excellent assault aircraft, usable for secondary missions, interception and air combat, characteristics imposed by the French Navy. The French Navy ordered 90 aircraft, including 21 in a photographic reconnaissance version, the Étendard IV P.
Between December 9, 1961 and May 26, 1965, the Aéronautique Navale received 69 Étendard IV M and 21 Étendard IV P. For the first time in its history, it reached transonic speeds. The Étendard IV M remained in active service with the French Navy until July 1991. They flew a total of 180,000 hours and carried out 25,300 landings on aircraft carrier.