French army to deploy Tigers in second quarter

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The first operational deployment of the Eurocopter Tiger attack helicopter will take place in the second quarter of 2009, the manufacturer's chief executive has revealed.

Speaking in Paris on 20 January, Lutz Bertling said that the Tiger would be deployed by the French army in Afghanistan, and would be "war-proven within 2009".

Bertling was unable to disclose the precise number of helicopters to be deployed, saying only that it would be "more than zero, but I don't believe more than five or six". Eurocopter is ready to send a team to Afghanistan to support the deployment with maintenance and support services to meet the army's requirements.

The French army operates 13 Tiger HAP helicopters, according to Flight's HeliCAS database, with a further 28 on order. It has also ordered a further 40 in the Tiger HAD configuration.

Responding to a suggestion that deliveries of France's Tiger HADs could be delayed by two to three years, Bertling said: "I can definitely not confirm a delay in [that] range." However, he noted that government-furnished equipment such as the aircraft's uprated MTR390-E engines could be a cause of delays.

Developed by MTRI, a consortium of ITP, MTU, Rolls-Royce and Turbomeca, the enhanced MTR390-E produces 14% more power for improved hot-and-high performance. Take-off power is increased to 1,470shp (1,095kW).

Developed for France and Spain, the Tiger HAD also features improved ballistic protection and a new electronic warfare system. The model's first flight was performed in December 2007 and first deliveries are scheduled for 2011. Spain has ordered 18 of the enhanced standard, and will upgrade its initial six HAP-model aircraft - five of which have now been delivered - to the same configuration.

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