Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971

2024-03-04

TIGER Spike’s Precision, Hellfire’s Fury

The Tiger helicopter, developed in Europe, serves in France, Germany, Spain, and Australia. Among its various variants, this article delves into the Tiger HAD (Hélicoptère d’Appui Destruction), a powerful attack helicopter designed for reconnaissance, ground support, and air combat.
 
Originally a France-Germany initiative for anti-tank helicopters, the Tiger programme expanded with Spain and Australia joining, leading to the development of different variants like the HAP, HAC, PAH2, and the HAD to meet specific needs. 
 
Under OCCAR since 2001, the programme features a common “basic helicopter” for cost efficiency, with Airbus Helicopters manufacturing it in Germany, France, and Spain. Discussions for the Tiger mid-life upgrade aim for the first updated delivery of the HAD variant by 2025/2026.
 
Multi-Mission Might 
Airbus’ Tiger excels in intricate collaborative settings and high-intensity conflicts. Battle-tested in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Libya, and Mali, it is adept at armed reconnaissance, air or ground escort, air-to-air combat, ground fire support, destruction, and anti-tank warfare day or night. 
 
In service since 2005, the HAP and UHT variants are complemented by the HAD, introduced later with qualification achieved in 2014. 
 
HAP (France and Spain)
The HAP, designed for the French and Spanish Armies, serves as an escort and close air support helicopter, boasting air-to-air capability. Armed with a 30 mm turreted gun, 68 mm rockets, and MISTRAL missiles, it excels in air-to-ground and air threat engagements. Proven in Afghanistan since 2009 and the Libyan conflict in 2011, its flexibility extends to naval operations from the French assault vessel “Tonnerre,” demonstrating prowess in challenging weather. 
 
UHT (Germany)
Originally designed for Cold War anti-tank missions, the German Tiger UHT features a high-performance mast-mounted sight linked to TRIGAT – Pars 3 LR air-to-ground missiles. Armed with 12.7 mm gun pods, 70 mm rockets, HOT missiles, and Stinger missiles for air defence, it excels in short-range combat.

Deployed in Afghanistan from December 2012 to June 2014 under ASGARD, select Tigers received enhancements, including ballistic protection, engine air particle separation, mission data recorder, SatCom, and software upgrades.
 
HAD (France, Spain)
Following the entry of Spain on the Tiger Programme in 2004, a major enhancement of mission capabilities was launched under the HAD variant with the integration of two air-to-ground missiles.
 
On the one hand, the visible/infra-red, optionally wire-guided “Spike” from Rafael allows seeing the approaching target from the missile point of view and steering the missile accurately until impact or using the fire-and-forget mode.
 
On the other hand, the Hellfire from Lockheed Martin is a combat proven laser-guided missile, combined either with a Tiger autonomous designation (improved STRIX roof-mounted-sight) or with an external designator.
 
Other major features contributing to enhance the configuration are the Enhanced Engine MTR 390-E (allowing 14 per cent more power), improved ballistic protection from Kevlar, mode 5 IFF or the new HAD-E Electronic Warfare System (EWS).
 
Cockpit Configuration 
With its tandem-seat glass cockpit layout, both the pilot in the forward position and the aft-seated gunner can manage the weapon systems and primary flight controls, switching roles if necessary.
 
Each crew member’s pair of multifunction LCD displays is used to display sensor data and information on internal systems, as well as to interact with the aircraft’s systems.
 
An additional display system is provided with the helmet-mounted display (HMD), which presents flight and fire data with digitally-enhanced optics to the flying pilot. The HMD enables the gunner to interact with, and control, the on-board weapon systems and view targeting data.
 
It allows for symbology overlay, providing the crew with critical targeting information and sensor imagery directly onto their visors, enabling them to maintain situational awareness while keeping their eyes focused outside the cockpit.
 
Agility and Performance 
The Tiger HAD features a sleek and aerodynamic airframe constructed principally from composite materials, which offer high strength-to-weight ratio and reduced radar signature. The wide-ranging use of composite materials (nearly 80 per cent of the airframe) considerably reduces the weight allowing an extended combat range which can be increased by additional fuel tanks. 
 
The fuselage, designed for minimal drag, maximises internal space for avionics, weapons, and fuel systems. The helicopter boasts a 13-metre, four-bladed main rotor for high performance and agility, complemented by a Fenestron tail rotor for noise reduction and improved anti-torque control. 
 
The tandem seat configuration with the gunner located in the back seat offers the pilot optimal visibility, and optimised ergonomic settings. Sophisticated Man-Machine-Interface (MMI) features improves the crews’ situational awareness and is adapted to mission fulfilment in all situations.

It has combat external fuel tanks for longer mission flight times, an extended flight domain in which Spike and Hellfire anti-tank missiles can be fired, and digital communications for the modern digitised battlefield.
 
Tiger HAD Block 2 helicopters are also “Navy capable” allowing operations from ships and in maritime environments.
 
Rotor Precision 
The rigid rotor and an accurate automatic flight control system with sophisticated upper modes provide the Tiger with an extraordinary manoeuvrability. The power is granted through the engines MTR390-2C specifically designed for the Tiger by MTR (consortium created by MTU, Turbomeca and Rolls Royce). There is an enhanced version (E) of the engines to be initially installed in the HAD variant. This version of the engine provides an additional 14 per cent of power.
 
Tiger Deployments
Chosen by global armed forces, the Tiger is purpose-built for reconnaissance, ground support, attack missions, and air-to-air defence.
 
Ground attack: Built for ground attack, the Tiger HAD features a lethal turreted gun with a robust fire control system. Linked to roof- and helmet-mounted sights for quick target acquisition, it offers a total ammunition capacity of 450 rounds and a firing rate of 750 rounds per minute.

The flexibility extends to unguided rockets, with capacities of up to 68 for 68-mm rockets and 52 for 70-mm rockets, while potential growth exists for laser-guided rockets. Qualified for Hellfire and Spike ER missiles, both are capable of 8,000-metre ranges in self-designation mode.
 
Air-to-air: Four “fire and forget” Mistral air-to-air missiles and the Nexter 30M781 30-mm turreted gun give the Tiger HAD a powerful air-to-air combat capability. Four Mistral missiles are accommodated on outer launchers, with a range of up to 6,000 metres.
 
The Tiger HAD helicopter is a resourceful platform designed to fulfil a wide range of missions on the modern battlefield. Its advanced capabilities and firepower make it suitable for numerous roles, including but not limited to:
Close Air Support (CAS): The Tiger HAD is well-suited for providing close air support to ground forces engaged in combat. It can engage enemy troops, armoured vehicles, and fortified positions with its onboard cannon, missiles, and rockets, suppressing enemy fire and providing cover for friendly forces.
 
Anti-Armour Operations: Equipped with anti-tank missiles such as the Hellfire and Trigat, it is highly effective against armoured vehicles, including tanks and armoured personnel carriers. It can conduct precision strikes against enemy armour formations.
 
Reconnaissance and Surveillance: The Tiger HAD excels in reconnaissance, utilising advanced sensors for real-time enemy intelligence, situational awareness for commanders.
 
Escort and Security:  Beyond offence, it offers escort, security for convoys, patrols airspace, responds rapidly, enhancing force protection.
 
Counter-Insurgency (COIN) Operations: Tiger HAD supports counter-insurgency with precision strikes on targets like armed militants, weapon caches, and IEDs. It is valuable in urban asymmetric warfare. 
 
Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR): It aids CSAR missions by offering aerial support, suppressing threats, conducting reconnaissance, and evacuating injured personnel.
 
Air Interdiction:  It disrupts enemy supply and logistics through air interdiction, targeting vehicles, convoys, and infrastructure. 
 
Special Operations Support: Tiger HAD supports SOF with aerial fire, reconnaissance, and insertion/extraction capabilities for raids, missions in hostile environments.
 
Tiger’s mission effectiveness is boosted by advanced modular weapons, electronic warfare, low detectability, and reconnaissance systems. 
 
Advanced Avionics
The helicopter features EUROGRID battlefield management, digital map display, integrated communications, and navigation systems. Advanced cockpit, Helmet-Mounted Display, and gyro-stabilised sight ensure precision in challenging environments.
 
Sensors & Targeting 
The helicopter employs Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR), Electro-Optical Targeting, and radar systems for target acquisition. The Mission Management System (MMS) integrates avionics, providing mission planning, sensor fusion, and playback functionalities. Self-protection systems enhance survivability with radar warning, missile approach warnings, and countermeasures. This avionics suite ensures superior situational awareness, flexibility, and precision, enabling the helicopter to excel in diverse combat missions with operational effectiveness.
 
Tailored Armament 
The Tiger HAD boasts tailored armaments for potent firepower, engaging diverse targets. Here’s an overview of its armament capabilities:
Gun System: The primary weapon of the Tiger HAD is a chin-mounted 30mm calibre gun turret, typically the Nexter Systems M230 cannon, which provides it with considerable firepower against both armoured and soft targets. 
 
Missiles: It is equipped with a variety of anti-tank and air-to-air missiles, enhancing its versatility and lethality. 

 
The helicopter arms itself with Hellfire missiles for armoured targets, Trigat LR for standoff anti-tank engagement, and Mistral air-to-air missiles for air defence. It also deploys various rockets, including 70mm unguided rockets and HOT missiles, expanding its arsenal for versatile ground and armoured target engagement.
 
The Tiger HAD is equipped with cutting-edge defensive countermeasure systems to enhance its survivability against enemy threats. These systems may include chaff and flare dispensers to disrupt and evade incoming missiles, as well as innovative electronic warfare suites to detect and counter enemy radar and communications.
 
Valuable Asset
Offering Kevlar ballistic protection against 23 mm fire, self-sealing tanks, system redundancies, segregation, and a chaff & flares dispenser, the helicopter prioritises high crashworthiness.
 
Its alertness during flight, combined with its flat and narrow silhouette, low radar infrared signature and passive weapon system, considerably reduce this helicopter’s vulnerability on the battlefield.
 
Further enhancing survivability are the Tiger HAD’s ballistic protection, high crashworthiness and self-sealing tanks, and system architecture with designed-in redundancies and segregation.
 
Overall, the Tiger HAD helicopter is a highly adaptable platform capable of performing a wide range of missions in complex and dynamic operational environments, making it a treasured asset for modern military forces. 
 
Its blend of firepower, agility, and innovative avionics allows excellence across diverse roles, enriching ground operations and amplifying battlefield effectiveness.
 
Text/Picture credit: Airbus Helicopters, Australian Defence Forces 
 

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