The helicopter passes a crucial test on its way to getting its sea legs.
The weather was terrible, but it was a good thing: from May 21 to June 7, the Tiger underwent sea trials aboard two French navy vessels. The campaign followed a series of tests in 2002, which had resulted in a reduced flight envelope. In the long term, these campaigns aim to confirm the Tiger’s suitability for ship-based operations with the French navy. This naval capacity is part of the HAP(1) Tiger’s standard 1 qualification.
“The 2007 campaign focused on two things,” says Emmanuel Rey, head of the HAP Tiger development programme team at Eurocopter. “First, flight tests had to be conducted to demonstrate the helicopter’s deck landing and takeoff capability in different configurations and under a wide range of sea conditions. The second aspect of the programme concerned logistics tests using special tools and manoeuvres on deck.”
Under extreme conditions
During its 13 days at sea, the Tiger executed 315 deck landings. In addition, Eurocopter’s 21-member, multidisciplinary team conducted 78 logistics operations, among them blade folding during the day and at night, flushing the engine, and traction operations on the elevator and on the well deck of the amphibious landing dock (ALD) Siroco. “Many operations were carried out in bad weather, with six-metre swells and winds of up to 100 km/hour,” Rey points out. “The Tiger showed its ability to land on deck with a 12° roll. We were only able to achieve such extreme conditions on the frigate Guepratte. We disconnected its anti-rolling system and ballasted water to make the vessel list as much as possible.”
The campaign ended on a positive note: firstly, the flight envelope was extended even further than expected, as the tests were conducted with a weight of up to 6,600 kg, the approximate weight of the future HAD(2) Tiger. Secondly, all logistics requirements were fully met. The 2002 campaign had brought certain inadequacies to light, and the corrective actions undertaken have since borne fruit: all tools proved to be well adapted.
As a result, nothing seems to be standing in the way of the Tiger obtaining its standard 1 qualification, which will enable it to operate from ships. Its potential new area of operation was not part of its original specifications, which were defined in the geopolitical context of the Cold War. But the aircraft’s versatility, which has been proven once again, will enable French service personnel to operate from ships without worry. This will likely also be of interest to Australia and Spain...