Gazelle: a fighting beast

Gazelle: a fighting beast

The Franco-british Gazelle helicopter is a fast, maneuverable and able to delivering weapons of antitank be effective. Engaged in combat in the Middle East, the Falklands and the Gulf, this device has given full satisfaction to its users.

Designed to carry out observation missions, liaison and antitank, gazelle is the best lightweight helicopters of fighting. Used in operations by 22 countries, this machine is produced in four plants located between Europe and Africa.
Having undergone successive upgrades, it has undergone many improvements on the initiative of its main military users: France and the UK, so it will remain in service until the late 90s.

When she threw in his studies to the replacement of the lightweight helicopter Alouette II in the mid 70s, the Sud-Aviation company secretly obtain a significant success. Turbo-mech, a firm specialized in the development of gas turbine engines, would play an important role in the development of device, realizing a powerful and reliable propellant. But the design of dynamic elements was to be the highlight of the program.

Gazelle benefit greatly of an agreement signed in 1964 with the West German society Bolkow about the development of the blades of glass fiber rotors, combined with a rigid rotor head. If they are now commonly used, the composite rotors at the time marked a major technological advance. Combining levity with great strength, they have a long life and reduce maintenance operations. The rigid rotor head, in addition it reveals a very simple manufacturing, provides greater maneuverability to the machine that has. Yet the idea to equip the gazelle was abandoned at the prototype stage, which received a semi-articulated element constituting a compromise between two formulas.

Another innovation was the installation of a small window, a sort of ducted fan, instead of the usual tail rotor. This was to ensure the directional stability of the cruising speed camera without using the compensating effect of a tail rotor. This one, being streamlined, the pilot was theoretically able to disengage after takeoff. These predictions proved somewhat optimistic, and tests showed that the turmoil which arose around the fenestron consistently hindered the control of the device. The small window is used in all phases of flight, still achieving a 5% power savings.

Classic was the design of the cabin, with its semi onebody structure with two boxes above which are mounted light alloy supports for the windows and doors; the central and rear sections consituées panels honeycomb. Glass extensively to provide maximum visibility to the pilot and the observer, it can accommodate 3 passengers.

Continuous improvements

Known initially as the designation of SudX-300, the new Helicopter received the name of SA.340 before making its first flight on April 7, 1967. The engine that was fitted to the aircraft the origin, ‘Oredon 450 hp, was not ultimately ever made by Turbomeca, so he had to resort to Astazou II 365 hp pending the development of a more powerful engine. Machine formed a cell whose technology was already proven and which the rotors were consistent with a classic design, SA.340 was followed in April 1968 by a much more advanced prototype, fitted with a rigid main rotor and a small window.
It was then when the problems began. Having previously tested a rigid four-bladed rotor on an Alouette, South Aviation realized that significant flight control problems arose with a three-bladed rotor inspired by the same techniques. Forced to adopt a semi-articulated rotor, the french firm changed the name of the aircraft in SA.341.

The SA341 take South gazelle name in July 1969 to 1 January 1970, when the company became part of Aérospatiale. But even before mass production could start, new difficulties arose. The engineers had to work nearly a year to solve the problems that arose such vibrations in transmissions. Series of Gazelle received a turbine engine Astazou III 600 hp, 2 doors aft cockpit and tail surfaces of larger dimensions.
Main current user of the helicopter, the Light Aviation of the Army (ALAT) has received several versions, from the original model to the series of the most advanced variants. The first gazelle for the French army and international clients had a turbomoteur Astazou III and had take off mass limited to 1800 kg. May 11, 1973, Aerospatiale was taking the air SA342 prototype, equipped with a Astazou XIV 870 hp.
Destinate to export, SA342K displays a takeoff weight of 1900 kg while the SA342L has improved fenestron. As for SA342M, which has the same Particular features, it has a Astazou XIVM and automatic starter. Since 1985, Aérospatiale offers on the market a SA342L whose take-off weight of 200 kg and which power is increased to 600 hp

Service in France

The ALAT acquired since 1973 some 170 SA341F gazelle to replace the Alouette II observation missions, liaison and training. Number of gazelle have been modernized since 1977. In anticipation of further development, plans were made in order to transform 110 SA341M by Mounting HOT anti-tank missiles at exterior towers and a viewfinder on the cab roof . The SA341M entered service in September 1978, but because of its maximum mass relatively limited, he was not considered as a transition model, and conversion operations touched a quarantine copies.
Sixty-two SA341F were developed standards SA341F / barrel version with a truck M.621 GIAT 20 mm for the armed escort placed on the right side of the fuselage, the height of the anterior support mast landing skid.
It has a rate of fire of 300-740 rounds per minute, but the shooter has no outside sighting system. However, a simplified model of the viewfinder M334, employed on the SA342 is in the process of being installed on the SA341F recognition. The information collected by the observer at a magnification device are transmitted to the concerned authorities through a VHF / FM radio with specialized gazelle in this mission are also provided.


In February 1980, the ALT began to take into account the first 158 copies ordered the SA342M version HOT missile army. With a more powerful turbomoteur engine, the SA 342M has a navigation sytem Crouzet Nadir, an autopilot IDFS PA85G, Doppler Decca 80, night flight equipment and a deflector exhaust manifold. By reducing the heat signature of the aircraft, this one conceals its vulnerability to self-steering infrared missiles; however, it is used only in combat zones.

Placed on the roof of the cabin, the system aiming IDFS APX M397 suitable for HOT missile has a range of nearly 4,000 meters. A variant of this equipment gyrostabilised, APX M334, has a magnification power of 2.5 to 10. In addition, thirty SA342M were transformed into SA342M ATAM by adopting the T200 viewfinder and 4 air-missiles Mistral air. Finally, the French army is intéeresse to version SA342M Viviane, intended for night fighting and featuring an infrared scanning system, laser roof and HOT missiles.

British production

Following an agreement signed in 1967, in particular concerning the adaptation of Puma and Westland Lynx, the army body will decide to acquire a significant number of gazelle, whose assembly was entrusted to the Westland company. The first deliveries began in 1973 and in February 1978, age at which the assembly lines installed britain interrupted their activities, 282 aircrafts were manufactured. All, with the exception of a dozen (10 for the civilian market and 2 to police emirate in Quatar) were paid to the Army Air Corps, the fleet air arm and the Royal Air Force. In fact, 2 plants were affactées to the achievement of the gazelle: the Yeovil first, then that of Weston-super-mare, who took on his own construction of the last 92 copies from 1977.

Having perceived AHMK1 212 gazelle, the Army Air Corps uses for binding and observer missions (some were bought by the Royal Marines), equiped with Exhaust deflectors, these machines have recçu for some of them only an improved version of the turbine engine Astazou, known as mk III N2. The aircrafts were assigned to units stationed in britain, Germany and the Federal belize, central america. At the beginning of the Falklands War, they were modified in a hurry and benefited from the opportunity to pack SNEB rocket pods 68 mm on the fuselage pylons; 17 units were assigned to the Royal Marines and 656 squadron of the army air corps for the duration of hostility; They were equipped with a 7.62 mm machine gun so they can conduct escort missions and armed reconnaissance. 3 of them were destroyed, including two by fire from small arms, which gave to think that the gazelle was not robust enough to be engaged helicopter above a battlefield.

Despite these criticisms, the Army Air corps has decided to put 67 of its AHMK1 the SA342 standards for use alongside the Westland Lynx anti-tank helicopter for the discovery of targets. These rotary wings are characterized by a Doppler navigation system and AF352 viewfinder mounted on the roof of the cabin. In January 1983, the training used to support the British army of the rhine (BAOR), Germany, it was brought to six anti-tank squadrons Lynx / TOW each comprising 4 gazelle observation and 3 fully equipped reconnaissance squadrons gazelle.

International Sales

Of the 1254 Gazelle sold from 1 July 1992, more than 1,000 are intended for military use, and most of export orders have cocerné aircrafts manufactured in France. The original engine SA341H Astazou III was supplanted by improved versions and SA342K SA342L, some copies were given weapons consisting of 6 HOT anti-tank missiles or a GIAT M621 20mm cannon. The SA342L acquired by Iraq were involved in the war against Iran alongside other armed helicopters.
Syrian gazelle served in Lebanon during the Israeli invasion of 1982. Others have been used by the Moroccan army with HOT missiles and 20mm cannon against. guerrileros the Polisario.

In Yugoslavia Soko firm, based in Mostar, proceeded to the construction under license from Gazelle 212, which will be equipped with various weapons. A first agreement signed in 1971 provided for the delivery of 21 copies by France and the completion of 112 SA341H by local industry. Any other arrangement in 1982 allowed the Yugoslav to increase production planned 100 SA 342L.
These aircrafts can be equipped with two anti-tank missiles of Soviet origin AT-3 “sagger”. In 1992, they acquired the possibility of receiving an air-air craft SA-7 “grail” for the anti-Helicopter struggle. Thus equipped, they have been widely used in the civil war that has torn to pieces the country.

The variety of weapons which use the Gazelle of the Egyptian army remains unmatched. Besides machines with HOT missiles and 20mm cannons, Egyptians use the gazelle for anti-ship missions alongside aerospatiale. AS.12. It could even as BGM-71 TOW are installed aboard these pure aircrafts tank destroyer, rather up HOT. Egypt has 30 built under his gazelle license.

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