August 5, 2010: Last year, France sent three Tiger helicopter gunships to Afghanistan. Noting the success Britain and the U.S. were having with their AH-64 helicopter gunships there, France sought to see how effective their new Tigers would be. In the last eleven months, the three Tigers have been available for operations 90 percent of the time and have spent over a thousand hours in the air. ThatÂ’s about 35 hours a month per helicopter.
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 twenty years earlier, in 1984).
France and Germany have both bought 80 Tigers, which Spain has obtained 24 and Australia 22. The eight ton AH-64 has been in service for 26 years, and nearly 1,100 have been built so far. Several nations are using AH-64s in Afghanistan, with great success. France has 3,500 troops in Afghanistan, and used additional civilian technicians from Eurocopter (which built the Tiger) to keep the helicopters operational, and to note any problems the Tigers were having in the harsh combat conditions found there.