Tiger MkIII helos get MAST-F, Mistral 3 AAMs and TopOwl helmet

BERLIN, ($1=0.91 Euros) — Defense Agency OCCAR, on behalf of the French and Spanish Defense Directorates-General, has awarded Airbus Helicopters a contract for the development, production, and initial support of the Tiger MkIII attack helicopter, learned BulgarianMilitary.com, citing FlugRevue.

New air-to-surface missile for the French attacking Tiger helicopters
Photo credit: MBDA

The contract includes the upgrade of 42 machines for France [with the possibility of adding another 25 helicopters] and 18 for Spain. In addition, the contract provides for the possibility of Germany later joining the Tiger MkIII program.

The first flight of the first prototype is planned for 2025. The first delivery to the French Directorate General of Armaments [DGA] will take place at the end of 2029, followed by the first delivery to Spain in 2030. Development and upgrade work will take place at Airbus Helicopters factories in Albacete [Spain], Marignane [France] and Donauwörth [Germany] carried out.

Comprehensive upgrade

The Tiger MkIII is a major upgrade of the European attack helicopter’s systems. The new standard enables the platform to be connected to the digital battlefield to enable cooperation with manned and unmanned systems and exchange tactical information in real-time.

Upgrade-Tiger-MkIII-helos-get-MBDA-MAST-F-and-Mistral-3-AAMs-1
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The standard configuration of the Tiger MkIII includes the integration of Safran Strix NG sighting device, Thales FlytX avionics suite, Topowl DD helmet visor, an Indra IFF upgrade, Thales GNSS, and Safran’s inertial navigation system. The communications equipment will be upgraded with Thales Contact/Synaps radio and data links for collaboration between manned and unmanned aircraft.

Link16 and SATCOM functions will also be installed for Spain. The Spanish Tiger MkIII will be equipped with an Indra battlefield management system and countermeasures, while the French Tiger MkIII will be equipped with an ATOS battlefield management system and Thales countermeasures.

The new weapons package for France includes the MBDA MAST-F [Future Tactical Air-to-Surface Missile] and the Mistral 3 air-to-air missile. For Spain, new capabilities include 70mm guided missiles and a new air-to-surface guided missile.

Upgrade: Tiger MkIII helos get MBDA MAST-F and Mistral 3 AAMs
Photo credit: Wikipedia

“The Tiger MkIII program will be a European response to the need for a state-of-the-art attack helicopter for decades to come. With this upgrade, the Tiger remains an indispensable and modern tool for European armies and strengthens defense cooperation in Europe,” said Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters.

German skepticism

The Ministry of Defense in Berlin wrote about the Tiger MkIII in December 2021: “Further German participation in the Tiger MkIII project will be assessed holistically, taking into account the associated risks and affordability. The main parameters are the total costs, the fulfillment of technical requirements and the availability of the KH in the course of the conversion, and also the point in time at which the conversion measures are to be completed. A final decision will be made in the 20th legislative period – at the earliest in mid-2022 – in particular, taking into account the financial framework conditions than available”.

The army’s dissatisfaction with the Tiger remains a problem: “The material operational readiness and the available flight hours of the Tiger are stagnating at an insufficient level. The measures taken to improve the operational readiness, the standardization of the construction status, the measures to reduce the maintenance intensity as well as the initiated Measures to strengthen the aircraft technical capacities in the troops and in particular also in the system-supporting industry will only have an effect in the medium to long term… To maintain the operational value of the KH TIGER weapon system, work must already be carried out on further technical development, in particular, to proactively eliminate obsolescence, to keep the core functionalities state-of-the-art and thus to meet the requirements of modern deployment scenarios in peacekeeping operations, but also in the context of national and alliance defense”.

Upgrade-Tiger-MkIII-helos-get-MBDA-MAST-F-and-Mistral-3-AAMs-2
Photo credit: Thales

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