Airbus EC665 Tiger, story of a European attack helicopter

Airbus EC665 Tiger, story of a European attack helicopter

The Tiger has the distinction of being the first all-composite helicopter developed in Europe. Today, there are 140 in service in the world with a total of 94,000 flight hours

Germany, France, and Spain, all together for a unique military project. Since 2003, these are the armies of the three European countries all using the EC665 Tiger, the twin-engine attack helicopter created in 1989 by Eurocopter, known today as Airbus Helicopter

The Tiger HAD is designed to perform armed reconnaissance, air or ground escort, air-to-air combat, ground firing support, destruction and anti-tank warfare, day or night and in adverse conditions. The helo is the first all-composite helicopter developed in Europe and through the years it has proven its capabilities during operational deployments in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Somalia, Libya and Mali.

Today, there are 140 in service in the world with a total of 94,000 flight hours logged so far. 


The enhanced Tiger HAD variant provides air-to-ground missile capability, improved target acquisition and ballistic protection, 14 percent more power, an evolved electronic warfare suite, and the latest interrogation systems.

In the photogallery: AIRBUS HELICOPTERS EC665 TIGER

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The story of the Tiger starts back in 1984, right in the middle of the Cold War. Both French and German governments created a joint venture for producing a new attack helicopter. The aircraft was supposed to fight against the soviet armoured fighting vehicles in a then not-so hypothetical conflict. Aérospatiale, in cooperation with the MBB (formed after a merger with Messerschmitt), began its first studies for devoloping an European-manufactured attack helicopter.

The project was then put in a forced hiatus from 1986 to 1987 because of its high production cost; however, it was later relaunched in November 1989, when France and Germany gave the green lights to the production of 5 initial prototypes for an assessment.

In the video: EC665 in action in Brisbane, Australia

Born as a pure anti-tank helicopter, the EC665 Tiger was gradually modified to accomplish a higher number of missions of the Cold War era. Several different configurations were designed: for the Tiger’s attack version, the French engineers chose the most enhanced weaponry available in the Western block, so the aircraft has been equipped with a 30-mm GIAT 30M 781 cannon, up to 8 AGM-114 Hellfire anti-armour missiles, as well as up to 4 Stinger AA missiles.


The EC665 Tiger can reach a maximum speed of 146 knots (271 km/h), with a range of 515 miles (973 km). Unlike its main market rivals, the Tiger’s designers opted for an unusual configuration of the seats. The pilot’s seat, placed inside a tandem cockpit, is actually placed in front of the co-pilot gunner’s seat. Furthermore, both members of the crew can use commands and military equipment, swapping their roles in case of emergency.

Finally, the pilot also has to monitor defensive countermeasures, communications and other secondary functions of the military compartment.

The Tiger HAD is an highly agile helicopter, benefitting from a 13-meter, four-bladed hingeless main rotor. It is likewise powerful, thanks to two enhanced MTR390 turboshaft engines. Avionics incorporated on the Tiger HAD are the EUROGRID battlefield management and digital map display systems, integrated radio and satellite communications and data transfer links, an IFF transponder/interrogator, and a high-authority 4-axis digital automatic flight control system.

The gyro-stabilized roof-mounted sight has a TV camera, thermal imager, laser rangefinder, laser designator, and a laser spot tracker capable of simultaneously following up to four targets.

In addition, the Tiger HAD has combat external fuel tanks for longer mission flight times, an extended flight domain in which Spike and Hellfire anti-tank missiles can be fired, and digital communications for the modern digitized battlefield.

Tiger HAD Block 2 helicopters are also “navalized,” allowing operations from ships and in maritime environments.

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