Eurocopter reported “an important new milestone” in the Tiger combat helicopter program with the first flight of a Spanish-assembled HAD version. It will be the first to enter service with the Spanish army, by year-end. A prototype HAD/E that was assembled and flown in France has been performing the certification and qualification flight campaign in Spain since 2010. The French Army also ordered the HAD; Eurocopter delivered the first of 40 HAD/Fs last April for operational evaluation. Spain has ordered 24 HADs; six will be upgraded from HAP versions already delivered to that country.
Compared with the HAP version, the HAD has more powerful MTR390 engines, an electronic warfare system, a helmet-mounted targeting system and a roof-mounted sight. It adds Hellfire or Spike laser-guided air-ground missiles to the previous version’s armament, which comprises a 30-mm gun, rocket launchers and Mistral air-to-air missiles. “The HAP is capable of support and protection, whereas the HAD is designed for support and destruction,” DGA Tiger program manager Alexandre Barouh told journalists during a recent briefing at Eurocopter’s Marignane headquarters.
The Tiger has been dogged by extended development delays, funding hold-ups and into-service teething troubles. No new customers have been found since Australia (2001) and Spain (2003) joined the Franco-German program. But Capt. Brice Erbland, an operational French Army Tiger pilot, told the same briefing that during two deployments of the HAP version to Afghanistan, the helicopter had prompted “lots of foreign interest, especially because of the avionics, the Thales Topol helmet and the Nexter gun.”
Maj. Xavier Brunette for the French Army test center described the HAD development effort, including the considerable work devoted to refining the man-machine interface (MMI), “a key subject,” he said. “We took extra time to learn the lessons from the HAP version,” he said. Flight evaluations of the refinements, including live firing, are still required, he added.
Eurocopter has delivered nearly 100 Tigers to date, and the fleet has accumulated more than 40,000 flight hours, including more than 5,000 hours over Afghanistan, Libya and Mali. The EADS subsidiary claims that it has developed leaner industrial processes during the HAD development, as well as closer working relations with the DGA, the pan-European procurement agency OCCAR, and industrial partners such as Lockheed Martin, MTRI, Nexter, Sagem and Thales.