French and German pilots will learn how to master Eurocopter's attack helicopter at a new school to be opened in the Proven‡al countryside in July

Deliveries of the first Eurocopter Tigers to France's army air corps and Germany's army are scheduled for between July this year and February 2004. In fact the first 10 French and 15 German Tigers will not go to operational units - they will be sent to a new training centre that, since December 2001, has been under construction at the air corps' headquarters at Le Luc-en-Provence in southern France.

"We expect building work on the school to be completed by the end of April, with the official opening planned for July," says Tiger training division chief Maj Christian Franchini. "Although we have a small staff, by 2009 when the school becomes fully operational it will employ over 300 people - roughly split 50:50 between French and German personnel." While the aim, says Franchini, is for a fully integrated binational establishment, for the first few years, officers and non-commissioned officers (NCO) from each army will train separately.

The first five French lead instructor squalified on Tiger prototype PT2 last summer, at Eurocopter's Marignane headquarters, but will complete weapons training on the first series production HAP, which is at Marseilles. Franchini adds: "Our German counterparts will start their training towards year-end. Our job is to convert the first French instructors appointed, who will arrive between February and July 2004, while they in turn will deal with the first 'proper' students, who are due to arrive at the school in September 2004." The first Tiger unit - the air corps' 5th Régiment Hélicoptère de Combat - is expected to be operational by April 2006.

Common resources

While the courses will be on a national basis - with French students taught in French by French instructors, for example - the training resources, apart from the helicopters themselves, will be common to both. Pilots from officer and NCO cadres will train for both pilot and battle captain (gunner) roles. Between 2004 and the end of 2007, the courses will be tailored to experienced pilots. Thereafter the school expects to be taking students straight from the nearby helicopter school.

The pilot course is designed to last 18-20 weeks, and will comprise 41h in the air, 56h in the full mission simulator (FMS), 49h of cockpit procedures training (CPT), 79h of computer-aided training (CAT) and 55h of conventional ground school. The battle captain will be given a 10-week course that includes 20h airborne, 39h in the FMS, 13h of CPT, 27h CAT and 52h in the classroom.

By the time the first conversion students arrive at Le Luc in 2004, the first of 10 FMS domes, together with two cockpit modules representing the front-seat pilot and rear-seat "battle captain" stations, should be ready. The Tiger's tandem cockpit means each of the two crew positions requires a separate 7.4m (24ft) dome. However, each can accept roll-in/roll-out cockpit modules to offer flexibility if the training requirement dictates an emphasis on one or the other crew positions. The reconfiguration process takes about two hours.

Eight CPTs (three pilot, three battle captain) and three CAT classrooms, each accommodating 12 students, will follow. One of the classrooms will also be equipped to train ground crews in weapon loading and arming drills.

The simulators use a rehosting technique which emulates the software from the helicopter. Each of the devices will be capable of either independent, conjoined or networked operation and will be reconfigurable between the Tiger variants.

Support facilities will allow missions to be briefed and debriefed, or tactics and scenarios developed. A geospecific database represents south-eastern France and development tools will enable the user to modify or extend that database, or create new ones. One representing training areas in Germany is envisaged, for example.

Thales Training & Simulation is responsible for the FMS, the Space Magic Image generator, synthetic environment and instructor station, while Germany's STN-Atlas Elektronik provides the cockpits, CPT and CAT, as well as the training management and information system.

Regimental headquarters in Pau and Étain in France and Fritzlar and Roth in Germany will also each get a training suite of two FMS domes, two CPT classrooms and one CAT classroom. The production contract for the simulators, which will confirm who gets what and when, is being validated. The European joint procurement executive OCCAR expects to complete the contract in July and to sign with Thales next January, with delivery scheduled for early 2006. Consideration has been given to the viability of developing a deployable version - similar to that for the UK Army Air Corps' AgustaWestland WAH64 Apache fleet - but a decision has yet to be made.

A corresponding engineering training centre is also to be set up at Fassberg, near Lüneberg in northern Germany. Ground crew training devices will be used to cover areas such as dynamics, avionics, the central fuselage, gun and environmental control system.

Responsibility divided

This division of responsibilities is due as much to the French centre's proximity to land and sea training areas - ship flightdeck qualification is envisaged - as well as its more favourable weather. Preparation for frontline engineer training in Germany will begin at the end of this year and it should be available to the regiments 12 months later.

The first French and German army aviation pilots are scheduled to begin training at Fassberg in July and the first combat crews will start their training in 2004. By 2007-8, the joint school will have the capacity to train 140 pilots and battle captains a year.

Source: Flight International