The Tiger is the product of an innovative concept – the concept of the combat helicopter. It is also the cornerstone of the fertile Franco-German cooperation that gave birth to the Eurocopter group.
The combat helicopter saw the light of day in France, when the first SS-10 missile was fired from prototype 02 of the SE-3120 Alouette in October 1953. After some initial skepticism, the military decided to adopt the concept of the armed helicopter. It was the right decision, as today’s success has proved. Now, half a century later, the combat helicopter is a well established concept and no one would dream of denying its usefulness on the battlefield. And with the Tiger, it has attained a superior standard of mobility, survivability and firing power.
The Tiger adventure began in the mid-1970s, when parties on both sides of the Rhine began to think about developing a combat helicopter modeled on that built by the Americans during the Vietnam War. Both countries needed to replace their existing helicopters: the Gazelles in France and the BO-105s in Germany. The project rapidly took on a political dimension, following the same approach as the major Franco-German armament programs set up during the previous decade by President Charles de Gaulle and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.
Although the Soviet threat certainly justified the program, there were still numerous obstacles to overcome – so many, in fact, that delays became rife, threatening the very existence of the future helicopter. It took strong political volition to re-launch the cooperative helicopter venture in the early 1980s. From then on, the future combat helicopter would not only destroy Russian tanks, but also unite the European defense industry. At that time it was not known as the “Tiger”, a name it was only given in 1989, but as the HAP/HAC (Hélicoptère Appui Protection, Hélicoptère Anti Char) in France, and as the PAH‑2, the second-generation “Panzerabwehrhubschrauber” (anti-tank helicopter), in Germany. After a great deal of back and forth between government offices and design departments, France and Germany managed to overcome their disagreements and the Tiger took on its final shape: as a twin-engine tandem two-seater with a conventional tail rotor. Having been thus defined, the helicopter was to form the basis for the development of several specialized versions: anti-tank and combat support (HAC/UHT), combat and fire support (HAP), armed reconnaissance (ARH), and finally, the HAD multi-role combat version.
The program was officially launched on 20 March 1987 when France and Germany signed a declaration of intention. Two years and eight months later, the development contract itself was signed, with Aerospatiale and MBB taking equal shares of the workload.
The cooperation was not restricted to industrial aspects alone: In 1991, the year that saw the maiden flight of Tiger prototype PT1, plans to establish a Franco-German pilot training school at Le Luc in Provence were officially approved. It was also decided to train the technical staff of the two armed forces in Fassberg, Germany.
At the same time, though certainly not by chance, Eurocopter was created on 2 January 1992 when the MBB helicopter division merged with that of Aerospatiale.
Once the production contract had been signed on 18 June 1999 and the two partner countries had ordered a total of 160 rotorcraft, the Tiger set its sights on export markets. It chalked up its first success on 21 August 2001, when Australia ordered 22 helicopters of the ARH version. Two years later, on 5 September 2003, Spain ordered 24 aircraft of the HAD version. The export drives taking place at the present time promise further successful sales. By 1 September 2007, a total of 26 helicopters had been delivered to four customer countries – ten to France, seven to Australia, six to Germany and three to Spain – and had accumulated 8,200 flying hours, 5,000 of those since the date of delivery. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, the Tiger is steadily taking possession of its hunting grounds.
Established in 1992, the Franco-German-Spanish Eurocopter Group is a Division of EADS, a world leader in aerospace, defense and related services. The Eurocopter Group employs approx. 14,000 people. In 2006, Eurocopter confirmed its position as the world’s No. 1 helicopter manufacturer with a turnover of 3.8 billion euros, orders for 615 new helicopters, and a 52% percent market share in the civil and parapublic sectors. Overall, the Group’s products account for 30% percent of the total world helicopter fleet. Its strong worldwide presence is ensured by its 17 subsidiaries on five continents, along with a dense network of distributors, certified agents and maintenance centers. More than 9,800 Eurocopter helicopters are currently in service with over 2,500 customers in 140 countries. Eurocopter offers the largest civil and military helicopter range in the world.
Text- / Bildquelle (source): EADS
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