June 17, 2009: France is sending three Tiger helicopter gunships to Afghanistan, to join the Gazelle and Cougar helicopters already there. Last year, Gazelle reconnaissance helicopters were sent to Afghanistan, as well as EC 725 Cougar transport choppers. The 1.8 ton Gazelle is similar to the U.S. OH-58. The 11 ton EC 725 is similar to the U.S. UH-60. The nations that have been fighting in Afghanistan the longest (the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia), are enthusiastic users of UAVs and helicopters to scout routes in areas where the Taliban may be active, or even if there are no Taliban believed to be around. That's because banditry is a popular outdoor sport in Afghanistan, and anyone not from your tribe is considered fair game. France quickly caught on to this, and kept sending more helicopters. It was also noted that the U.S. AH-64 helicopter gunship was also very useful, thus the request that Tiger helicopters be sent as well.
The six ton Tiger has a crew of two and a max speed of 280 kilometers an hour. It cruises at 230 kilometers an hour, usually stays in the air about three hours per sortie. It is armed with a 30mm automatic cannon, 70mm rocket pods (19 rockets per pod) and various types of air-to-ground missiles (eight Hellfire type missiles can be carried). It can also carry four Mistral anti-aircraft missiles.
Development of Tiger began in 1987, before the Cold War ended, and only began entering service six years ago. The Tiger costs about as much as the AH-64 Apache (about $45 million each), and was developed to emulate the success of the Apache (which entered service in 1984).
France has bought 80 Tigers, Spain 24 and Australia 22. The eight ton AH-64 has been in service for 25 years, and nearly 1,100 have been built so far. Several nations are using AH-64s in Afghanistan, with great success. France has 2,800 troops in Afghanistan, and is sending more.