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IN STRICT ACCORDANCE WITH THE CHINESE
The first French Tiger deployment ran from July 9, 2009, to January 10, 2010,
a second is now in process which should last until next July, amazingly
enough in full coincidence with the Chinese calendar marking the Year of
Despatched to the Afghan theatre
on July 25 by a single chartered
Russian An-124 flight from
Tarbes-Ossun Airport near Pau
home base of the 5e Régiment
d’Hélicoptères de Combat— the
three Tiger HAP helicopters
earmarked for deployment
required minimum dismantling,
mostly their main rotor blades and
a few side mounted items, to get
onboard the big Russian airlifter.
“The boarding operation in Tarbes
required 3 hours and it then only
took us 2 hours to disembark the
Tigers and their impedimenta upon
arrival in Kabul on July 26” said d’Argaignon.
It was followed on August 6 by three days of gun and rocket live firing
at the Darulaman gunnery range near Bagram air base and, on August 10,
the Tiger reached its Full Operational Capability (FOC) after 50 hours were
logged on the type, 20% of those at night. Ten days later on August 20 the
Tiger’s first combat mission occurred, also at night.
Support needed for the EC 665 Tiger was fairly minimal with only one
crew per machine despatched to Kabul, i.e six pilots in total. While a
handful of mechanics and armourers from the 5e RHC, assisted by three
Eurocopter civilian technicians, plus one from Sagem and one more from
Turbomeca - all volunteers - rounded out the ground crew. As the Tiger
HAPs always work in tandem, only two aircraft are required for any mission,
the third ship being readied as a backup, complete with its two-man crew.
For the technicians, the body of the Tiger, made up to 80% carbon fiber
reinforced polymer and kevlar (plus 11% aluminium and 6% titanium)
requires almost no particular care. It has proved trouble-free during the
hottest and coldest periods of the year in Afghanistan (+40°C/-20°C). The
main and tail rotors, made from fiber-plastic, arebable to withstand combat
damage and bird strikes and have also proved extremely rugged in war
action, requiring minimal servicing.
Just like the Jaguar, the Tiger is a good and sturdy machine well suited for
combat. As noted d’Argaignon : “The Taliban are now quite familiar with the
Tiger’s silhouette and skedaddle every time our machines enter the combat
zone, so fearful they are of the helicopter’s 30mm automatic canon!”
The three machines were readied in a few hours
and the first local flight was performed on July
30 once the crew had settled down and had gone
through their local flight schedules.
All in all, the French Tiger crew are very pleased
with their new machine which they now consider
the true successor of the late SEPECAT Jaguar
and its exceptionally lethal 30mm guns which
brought havoc in the ranks of rebels during the
French African wars of the seventies and eighties.
Lt Col François d’Argaignon, first commander
of the Task Force Mousquetaire in Kabul.
While the Tiger has a conventional helicopter gunship configuration of
the two crew sitting in tandem, it is somewhat different from other existing
attack rotorcraft in that the pilot is in the front seat and the gunner is in the
back (unlike all other current attack helicopters like the Mi-24 and AH-64).
Furthermore, the seats are offset to opposite sides of the centerline in order
to improve the view forward for the gunner in the back. This lay-out has
proved itself in actual combat action, with the gunner having the largest
field of view available and great observing capacities with his overhead
The Tiger’s gun has been its biggest asset.
Credit: Thomas Goisque
DRA MARCH KAT V2.indd 27
8/3/10 9:32:50 AM
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