The DGA French Procurement Agency on 17 December ordered seven Tiger combat helicopters from Airbus Helicopters for the French Army’s aviation arm, the ALAT. The order was placed via OCCAR, the European joint organisation for arms procurements.
This acquisition will give the ALAT a fleet of 67 Tigers which was the final objective of the French 2014-2019 military budget law updated in summer 2015. The aim is to give French forces greater capacity to undertake air-to-ground operations, notably in the sub-Saharan/Sahel region.
To date 55 Tigers have been delivered to the ALAT (or 53 depending on one’s sources!) of which 40 are in HAP version, that is a support and escort version equipped with air-to-air missiles, a 30mm gun and 68mm rockets. Most of these will progressively be upgraded into an HAD version, that is a support and destruction version which, in addition to the previously-mentioned weapons, also has air-to-ground missiles and a more powerful engine. The seven Tigers just ordered are HAD versions and will be delivered in 2017 and 2018.
“The French Army Aviation have put the Tiger to the test in multiple theatres and the aircraft has proved essential to the success of their missions,” explained Guillaume Faury, President and CEO of Airbus Helicopters.
The aircraft can support ground troops, destroy ground targets (armoured vehicles and buildings), and intercept airborne threats (slow aircraft, helicopters, remotely piloted air systems) It can accomplish its missions day and night flying tactically between obstacles.
Since July 2009, Tigers have been deployed continuously by the French Army in different areas, such as Afghanistan, Libya and Sahel. While deployments in Afghanistan and Libya have come to an end, Tigers are still supporting missions in Sahel where, despite the hostile operating conditions, the helicopter has shown a very high level of availability [cfr our interview with General Olivier de la Motte] and logged more than 2,000 flight hours since the start of deployment in January 2013.
The Tiger programme is a cooperation in the framework of OCCAR between France, Germany and Spain. To date, Airbus Helicopters has delivered more than 120 Tiger helicopters to these three countries and Australia. The aircraft has accumulated more than 68,000 flying hours.