March 13, 2014: Strategy Page
Two years after the first ones arrived Germany recently received the last batch of four Tiger helicopter gunships modified for service in Afghanistan. These twelve ASGARD (Afghanistan Stabilization German Army Rapid Deployment) models included sand filters, additional defense systems, a mission data recorder, and communications gear able to deal with systems used by allies. Germany has been training Tiger crews intensively for the last few years, getting them ready for service in Afghanistan. The training has been intense as crews returning from Afghanistan warn that you have to be prepared if you are to survive out there.
There have also been teething problems with Tiger. For example all Tigers were grounded in March 2013 after one of them crashed and burned during a training accident in Germany. This was the third Tiger to crash so far, although none of the six crewmen involved were killed. Intense training continued despite the accidents. German troops in Afghanistan wanted this aircraft badly but delivery was delayed several times due to various problems. In addition to the ASGARD upgrades, there were problems with the wiring and a number of less serious shortcomings as well. When the first French Tigers arrived in Afghanistan in 2009 there were problems and that led to the German ASGARD program for German Tigers intended for Afghanistan. In 2009 Germany only had ten Tigers and all were being used for training. It took three years to create ASGARD Tigers and get some to Afghanistan.
Tiger is made by European firm Eurocopter and has shown up just in time in Afghanistan. Until the arrival of the French and German Tigers, American AH-64s provided gunship support for all foreign troops in Afghanistan. France has used Tigers in Somalia, and Mali, where they have performed well. Tiger has spent over 7,500 flight hours in combat zones so far and a hundred have been delivered. The major users are Germany, France (which has ordered 80), Spain (24), and Australia (22). A total of 206 Tiger helicopters have been ordered. So far Tigers have spent over 50,000 hours in the air, most of it for training.
The Tiger costs more (some models go for over $100 million, including R&D costs) than the AH-64, a ten ton gunship that has been in service since the 1980s. Tiger entered service in 2003. 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 and 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 types at once). It can also carry four Mistral anti-aircraft missiles.
Germany appears to have lost some of its enthusiasm for Tiger and cut its order from 80 to 57. Germany has had a lot of problems with Tiger during the last few years. Besides, Germany has better uses for the money, like bailing out the many European nations having financial problems.
In 2013 France received the first of 40 of the ground support (HAD) version of the Tiger helicopter gunship. In 2008 the German Army received its first Tiger HAD. This version of Tiger first entered service in 2005. The HAD version has 14 percent more engine power and better protection from ground fire than the original model. While earlier versions were mainly for anti-vehicle work, HAD is more like the current U.S. AH-64 Apache and optimized for ground support. Development of Tiger began in 1987, before the Cold War ended. So the anti-tank aspect took a while to disappear and get replaced by a gunship optimized for hunting and killing a large variety of targets.