Aerospatiale Gazelle Lightweight Multi-Role Helicopter
The lightweight, multi-purpose French Aerospatiale Gazelle helicopter eventually found homes in both the domestic and export markets.
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A popular light reconnaissance and attack helicopter for export order, the Aerospatiale Gazelle systems are a common site all over the world. Operating in the multirole mode, the system has the capabilities to undergo duties as a reconnaissance, training, anti-tank or utility helicopter as needed. Setting many standards for future Aerospatialle helicopter designs, the Gazelle series lived up to expectations to spawn multiple variant formats.
The Gazelle was designed as the successor and ultimate replacement of the Aerospatiale Alouette II series, also seeing quite the commercial export successes in the same roles. The Gazelle family was born from a joint production effort involving Westland (a British helo firm) and Sud Aviation (the French-based helo aviation firm). From there, varying models of mission-specific types were produced as needed for the British Army, Royal Navy and French Army among other civilian and export entities.
The base Gazelle design incorporated a rigid main rotor head along with composite rotor blades. Besides the excellent visibility all-glass canopy, the most identifiable feature in the series is the shrouded tail fan rotor, which in itself was a revolutionary piece of engineering for helicopter usage.
The French SA 342M model series is capable of arming itself with HOT anti-armor missiles for the anti-tank role. Other Gazelles, known as SA 342M ATAMs, were also converted to fire the Mistral air-to-air missiles to counter any aircraft threats. Over forty countries bought into the lightweight export-friendly helicopter series, ensuring its use would continue for many decades to come. Though far from being counted on as the newer more modern combat helicopters, the Gazelle series still finds a role to play on the battlefield.