The Tiger combat helicopter – a force for unity

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.

About Euro­copter
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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