The French Navy's Aéronavale adopted a derivative of the Fouga CM.170-1 Magister as a basic trainer for carrier operations. Originally designated CM-170M Esquif, the prototype first flew on 31 July 1956, and was redesignated as the CM.175 Zéphyr soon after. Carrier trials were conducted from HMS Eagle (R05) and HMS Bulwark (R08) off the French coast.
The Zéphyr differed from the Magister in being equipped with an arrester hook and a modified structure and undercarriage strengthened for carrier operations. The Zéphyr also included a nose-mounted light. As it did not have ejection seats, the Zéphyr had new sliding canopy hoods which could be locked open during carrier launchings and landings. One six-round rocket pod could be mounted under each wing for weapons training. Two guns could be fitted in the nose, but these were seldom carried. Thirty-two aircraft were delivered.
The first production aircraft first flew on the 30 May 1959 and entered service in October 1959 with 59S the deck landing school at Hyéres. The squadron used only 14 aircraft at a time with the others being kept in short-term storage and periodically rotated to even out the flying hours. In 1962 the unit formed an aerobatic team using the Zéphyr called the Patrouille de Voltige d'Hyéres.