The Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters) Tiger is a four-bladed, twin-engined attack helicopter which first entered service in 2003. It is manufactured by Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters), the successor company to Aérospatiale’s and DASA’s respective helicopter divisions, which designate it as the EC665. Following their languages, in Germany it is known as the Tiger; in France and Spain it is called the Tigre.
Development of the Tiger started during the Cold War, and it was initially intended as an anti-tank helicopter platform to be used against a Soviet ground invasion of Western Europe. During its prolonged development period the Soviet Union collapsed, but France and Germany chose to proceed with the Tiger, developing it instead as a multirole attack helicopter. It achieved operational readiness in 2008.
The Tiger has the distinction of being the first all-composite helicopter developed in Europe; even the earliest models also incorporate other advanced features such as a glass cockpit, stealth technology, and high agility to increase its survivability. Improved variants have since entered service, outfitted with more powerful engines and compatible with a wider range of weapons. Since the type’s introduction to service, Tigers have been used in combat in Afghanistan, Libya, and Mali.
In 1984, the French and West German governments issued a requirement for an advanced multirole battlefield helicopter. A joint venture consisting of Aérospatiale and MBB was subsequently chosen as the preferred supplier. In 1986, the development programme was effectively cancelled due to spiralling costs; it had been officially calculated that supplying the German forces with an equivalent number of US-produced McDonnell Douglas AH-64 Apache attack helicopters would have been a considerably cheaper alternative to proceeding with development of the Tiger. According to statements by the French Defence Minister André Giraud in April 1986, the collaborative effort had become more expensive than an individual national programme and was also forecast to take longer to complete. In July 1986, a government report into the project alleged that development had become distanced from the requirements and preferences of its military customers.
France and Germany reorganised the programme, including steps such the adoption of fixed term contracts which placed greater financial risk upon the private firms involved. Thomson CSF also took over the majority of the Tiger’s electronic development work, such as the visual systems and sensors. Despite the early development problems and the political uncertainty between 1984 and 1986, the program was formally relaunched in November 1987; it was at this point that a greater emphasis on the attack helicopter’s anti-tank capabilities came about. Much of the project’s organisational framework was rapidly redeveloped between 1987 and 1989; such as the installation of a Franco-German Helicopter Office to act as a program executive agency in May 1989.
In November 1989, Eurocopter signed an agreement that financially secured the majority of the helicopter’s development through to serial production, including arrangements for two assembly lines to be built at Aerospatiale’s Marignane plane and MBB’s Donauwörth facility. This same arrangement also included the manufacture of five Tiger prototypes. Three were to operate as unarmed testbeds and the other two as armed combat prototypes with one for the French escort helicopter variant and the other for the German anti-tank variant. The first prototype took the Tiger’s maiden flight on 27th April 1991 that lasted for 30 minutes.
Due to the end of the Cold War and subsequent defence budgets decreases in the 1990s, financial pressures led to further questions regarding the necessity for the entire program; in 1992 there was speculation that the German Defence Ministry may not continue with the project due to the requirement to make fiscal cutbacks. However, Germany was also increasingly keen for the Tiger to perform a wider assortment of missions; beyond being an excellent anti-tank platform, the specifications for the German platform were modified to include armed battlefield reconnaissance, close air support of ground troops, and escorting other helicopters.
In 1992, Aérospatiale and MBB, among other companies, merged to form the Eurocopter Group; this led to considerable consolidation of the aerospace industry and the Tiger project itself. A major agreement was struck in December 1996 between France and Germany that cemented the Tiger’s prospects and committed the development of supporting elements, such as a series of new generation missile designs for use by the new helicopter. National political issues continued to affect the prospects of the Tiger however. A proposed sale of up to 145 Tigers to Turkey proved a source of controversy; Turkey selected the Tiger as the preferred option, but conflicting attitudes between Eurocopter, France, and Germany in regards to military exports led to Turkey withdrawing its interest.
On 18th June 1999, Germany and France publicly placed orders for an initial batch of 160 Tiger helicopters, 80 for each nation, valued at €3.3 billion. On 22nd March 2002, the first production Tiger was rolled out in a large ceremony held at Eurocopter’s Donauwörth factory; although production models began initial acceptance trials in 2003, the first official delivery to the French Army took place on 18th March 2005; the first official Tiger delivery to the Germany followed on 6th April 2005. Germany reduced its order to 57 in March 2013. In 2008 OCCAR estimated the project cost at €7,300,000,000. France’s FY2013 budget put their share of the project at €6.4bn (~US$8.7bn), implying a programme cost of €14.7bn (~US$20.1bn) to the three main partners. The 2013 French White Paper changed the mix to 60 HAP and 20 of the more expensive HAD; at FY2013 prices, their HAP cost €27.4m/unit (~US$37m) and their HAD €36.1m/unit (~US$49m), including development costs the French Tigers cost €80m (~US$109m) each. In December 2015, France placed an additional order for 7 HAD helicopters, with the plan to upgrade the entire fleet to the HAD standard by 2025 for a total of 67 helicopters.
The Tiger is capable of undertaking a wide range of combat missions, including armed reconnaissance and surveillance, anti-tank and close air support, escort and protection of friendly assets; and can operate during day or night in all-weather conditions, and has been designed to include operations in the aftermath of nuclear, biological, or chemical warfare. The Tiger can also be used in the maritime environment, able to operate from the decks of ships including frigates and during extreme weather conditions. Amongst the Tiger’s notable qualities, it possesses very high levels of agility, much of which is attributed to the design of its 13-meter four-bladed hingeless main rotor; the Tiger can perform full loops and negative g manoeuvres. Power is provided by a pair of FADEC-controlled MTU Turbomeca Rolls-Royce MTR390 turboshaft engines.
The Tiger has a tandem-seat ‘glass cockpit’ and is operated by a two-man crew; the pilot is placed in the forward position, with the gunner seated behind. Either of the crew members can manage the weapon systems or the primary flight controls, switching roles if necessitated; in addition to flying the aircraft, the Tiger’s pilot would typically be in control of the self-defence systems and communications, as well as some secondary weapons functions. While some of the weapons use dedicated control interfaces, such as the anti-tank Trigat missile, air-to-air weapons can be managed via controls on both sets of collective and cyclic sticks.
Crew new to the Tiger have to undergo substantial retraining due to the differences from older platforms, particularly in higher workload management and the additional capabilities afforded by the type; one major change from preceding attack helicopters is a far greater degree of operational autonomy. According to Andrew Warner, chief test pilot during the Tiger’s development, it is “the easiest-handling aircraft I have ever flown”.
The system cost (helicopter, armament, support) and unit cost varies between variants; Australia’s Tiger ARH has a price per unit of A$68 million, the latest Tiger HAD variant is estimated to cost US$44–48 million.
The protection systems employed on the Tiger includes stealth; aspects such as the visual, radar, infra red and acoustic signatures have been minimised to better evade threats that may be present upon the battlefield. According to Andrew Warner, the Tiger’s survivability “relies on stealth and agility”. The use of composite materials on the airframe has resulted in reductions in radar cross-section (RCS), infra red and acoustic signatures to improve battlefield survivability. The fuselage is armoured and was developed to withstand small arms fire and 23 mm (0.91 in) cannon rounds. The helicopter has various radar/laser warning and missile approach detection systems, including EADS’s AN/AAR-60 MILDS (Missile Launch Detection System), as well as flares and chaff dispensers.
The Tiger is the first all-composite helicopter developed in Europe. The fuselage of the Tiger is made from 80% carbon fibre reinforced polymer and kevlar, 11% aluminium, and 6% titanium. The entire tail section is made of composites, including the single section tail boom. The rotors are composed of a fibre plastic composite material able to withstand combat damage and bird strikes. The structure of the Tiger also incorporates protection against lightning strikes and electromagnetic pulses via an embedded copper/bronze grid and copper bonding foil.
The design of the Tiger includes a high degree of crash worthiness; many of the onboard systems have redundancies and are segregated to minimise the effect of damage. Components of the propulsion system, such as the rotors and drive shaft, were deliberately designed for greater ballistic tolerance than traditional designs; the gearbox is rated for a 30-minute dry run capability if lubrication is lost. Fuel is contained in two main internal fuel tanks, and an additional two smaller tanks are housed inside the stub wings. In the inhospitable conditions of the Afghanistan theatre, the Tiger had a reported operational availability of 90%
Amongst the key avionics features of the aircraft are the EUROGRID battlefield management and map display systems, integrated communications (HF/VHM/FM radio and satellite) and data transfer links, a high-authority digital automatic flight control system, and redundant MIL 1553 data buses. Two redundant mission computers control the weapons, sensors, and targeting functions. The Tiger’s navigational suite includes GPS, dual redundant inertial referencing, Doppler radar, separated air data units, radio altimeter and distributed air speed sensors. A dedicated nose-mounted forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensor is used by the pilot for night time flying.
Each crew member has a pair of multifunction liquid crystal data displays at their control station, typically used to display internal systems information and sensory data, and to interact with the aircraft’s higher systems. An additional display system is available to both crew in the form of the helmet-mounted display (HMD). The HMD is used by the flying pilot to display basic flight data with digitally enhanced optics, such as night vision or infrared imagery from the sensors, superimposed against; the gunner can use the HMD to interact with and control onboard weapon systems and view targeting data.
Perhaps the most significant single avionics system fitted upon the Tiger is the mast-mounted Osiris sight/sensor; this incorporates optical TV and thermal cameras, a laser range finder/tracker/designator, and multiple gyroscopes for stabilisation. Osiris performs as the main sensor for target observation and acquisition, providing firing and targeting data via the weapons computer; Osiris also enables entirely passive target acquisition to be undertaken and was developed to maximise the capabilities of the Trigat anti-tank missile developed in parallel to the Tiger itself.An alternative optical system to Osiris is mounted on the aircraft’s roof upon some variants.
The Tiger can be fitted with various armaments including rockets, cannons, and a range of air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, controlled via a dedicated weapons control computer. Munitions for anti-ground warfare include the nose-mounted 30mm Nexter turret; an assortment of external gun pods, anti-tank missiles, and up to four launchers for 70mm and 68mm rockets can be mounted on the Tiger’s stub wings. When deploying missiles such as the Mistral, the Tiger is capable of taking advantage of the munition’s off-boresight capabilities. A guided 70mm rocket will be developed for the Tiger based on the Roketsan Cirit.
In December 2008, final qualification of the HAP and UHT variants of the Tiger was completed, marking the platform’s readiness for operational duties overseas. In May 2009, the Tiger participated in readiness trials off the coast of Toulon to clear the type for active shipboard deployments. By November 2009, nearly 50 Tigers had been delivered to customers and the worldwide fleet had accumulated more than 13,000 flight hours.
In July 2009, three French Tiger HAP helicopters of the 5th Helicopter Regiment arrived at Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan, marking the first active deployment of the Tiger into an active combat zone. The helicopters performed armed reconnaissance and fire support missions, acting in support of coalition ground troops fighting a Taliban insurgency. The Tigers had their operational certification in Afghanistan in early August 2009; one French officer described the Tiger’s role in the theatre as “find, attack, suppress, seize, raid, and support”. By July 2010, it was reported that the Tiger detachment had totalled 1,000 operational hours in Afghanistan. On 4th February 2011, a French Tiger crashed during a night time operation about 30 miles east of Kabul and both crew members suffered light injuries.
In August 2009, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported that the ten operational Tigers in the German Army were only suitable for pilot training, while others had not been accepted due to defects. In May 2010, Germany suspended deliveries over “serious defects particularly with wiring”; in response Eurocopter stated that “Corrective measures related to wiring problems have been developed, agreed by the customer and are being implemented”, and that two corrected helicopters would soon be handed over to the German military.
During the 2011 military intervention in Libya, France deployed the French ship Tonnerre amphibious assault helicopter carrier, carrying a number of Tiger attack helicopters aboard, to the Libyan coast to conduct military operations upon military targets within Libya. On 4th June 2011, French Tigers, alongside British Army Apache helicopters, began combat operations in Libya.
During December 2012, a total of four German Tiger UHTs were deployed to Afghanistan. The UHTs operated from Mazar-i-Sharif Air Base inside Afghanistan performing reconnaissance, ground support, and convoy protection duties. All Tigers deployed to the zone had previously undergone upgrades under the ASGARD programme; the modifications include the addition of new defensive systems, sand filters for the MTR390 engines, and enhancements to the communications suite. The German Army received the last of the ASGARD-upgraded Tigers in March 2014. In March 2013, Spain also deployed three Tiger HAPs to the region to operate in support of Spanish ground forces. From 30th January 2013 to 30th June 2014, German Tigers in Afghanistan flew 1,860 hours over 260 missions supporting NATO ground troops, Afghan security forces, and humanitarian relief operations after floods. None of Germany’s four deployed Tigers fired a shot in combat, which the Bundeswehr attributed to the helicopter’s psychological impact through shows of force being sufficient to counter threats.
In January 2013, as part of France’s intervention in the Northern Mali conflict, a small number of Tigers have been deployed for combat operations in the theatre. Reportedly, early production Tiger HADs, known as Block 1, were deployed to the theater in November 2014 after having been deemed combat capable. In March 2017, two German Tigers were deployed to Mali in support of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, relieving AH-64 Apaches of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, with two more Tigers due to join them. On 26th July 2017, one of two German Tigers on the way to a support mission for UN troops crashed in the desert 70km north of Gao for unknown reasons. Both pilots were killed in the crash.
Eurocopter Tiger EC665 models from Flying Tigers.
Check out the latest Air Force One 1/72nd scale Eurocopter Tiger EC665 models which can now be ordered from Flying Tigers. Please click on the photo of your choice to go straight to the model of your choice or CLICK HERE to see them all.
Latest Hobbymaster Photo Updates.
Hobbymaster have released the latest photos on the two forthcoming F-15 Eagles due early in the New Year. Already selling fast, best to pre-order to avoid missing out !
Black Friday Sale !
Black Friday is here again ! Loads of models included in the Sale so grab yourself some bargains. I have split the Sale into THREE sections so it is easier to shop for the models you want. Some of the models have very limited stocks, so first come …first served.
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Black Friday Weekend Offer closes on Tuesday 28th November at 12.00 midnight GMT. Stocks subject to availability. Normal Terms and conditions apply, see website for details.
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