France, Spain Award Airbus Tiger Attack Helicopter Upgrade Contract

The French and Spanish governments have awarded Airbus a Tiger attack helicopter upgrade contract.

The contract covers the upgrade of 42 French Tigers (with the option of 25 more) and 18 in the Spanish military to the Tiger MkIII configuration under the program. Airbus revealed that Germany could later join the program.

Mid-Life Upgrades

The mid-life upgrades will increase the multi-role helicopter’s “operational effectiveness beyond 2040” into the fourth decade since its induction in the early 2000s.

The first upgraded aircraft is scheduled for its inaugural flight in 2025 and delivery to the French government four years later. Spain is scheduled to start receiving the aircraft in 2030.

The upgraded aircraft will be able to communicate in real-time with other manned and unmanned platforms through the Scorpion digital communication and battle management system. 

Additional Weapons

Moreover, a new “detection, recognition, and identification” capability, coupled with additional weapons such as a turret gun, laser-guided rockets, and missiles will enhance its offensive capacity.

The French aircraft weapons package will include the MBDA MAST-F (Future Tactical Air-to-Surface Missile) and Mistral 3 air-to-air missile, while the Spanish upgrade will include 70mm guided rockets and a new air-to-ground missile.

“The Tiger MkIII standard configuration will include the integration of the Safran Strix NG sights, the Thales FlytX avionics suite, the Topowl DD helmet-mounted sight display, an Indra IFF upgrade, Thales GNSS, and Safran’s inertial navigation system,” Airbus revealed.

“The communication suite will be upgraded with Thales’ Contact/Synaps radio and data links dedicated to manned/unmanned teaming.”

“Moreover, for Spain Link16 and SATCOM functionalities will be included. The Spanish Tiger MkIII will be equipped with a battlefield management system and countermeasures provided by Indra, whereas the French Tiger MkIII will be equipped with a battlefield management system by ATOS and countermeasures provided by Thales.”

Tiger Program 

The French, German, Spanish, and Australian militaries currently operate the multi-role aircraft.

The Tiger program was first proposed in 1984 by France and West Germany. It was shelved two years later due to its projected high cost and lengthy development period. 

The program was relaunched in 1987 with an emphasis on its anti-tank capability. A prototype was first flown in 1991. 

As the Cold War ended in 1991, Germany introduced modifications in the upgrades, including reconnaissance, close air support, and aircraft escort. 

Helicopter With ‘No Equivalent in the World’

In 1999, the two countries placed a 3.3 billion euros ($3.58 billion) order for 80 aircraft each and began receiving it in 2005. Eight years later, Germany reduced its requirement to 57 aircraft.

“The Tiger MkIII program will provide a European answer to the need for a state-of-the-art attack helicopter for the decades to come,” Airbus Helicopters CEO Bruno Even said. “With this upgrade, the Tiger will remain an essential and modern asset to its armies and reinforce defense cooperation in Europe.”

“The Tiger MkIII will have no equivalent in the world for high-intensity operations and will further improve the connectivity, precision, and firepower capabilities of the current Tiger.” 

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