The AS350 was originally designed to replace the aging Sud Aviation / Aerospatiale Alouette II light utility helicopter series. The AS350 appeared first under the Aerospatiale brand label but is now known under the Eurocopter name. First flight was achieved on June 26th, 1974 with introduction of the system taking place in 1975. The helicopter has been in production ever since and has become a fixture in the inventories of dozens of nations around the world.
The AS350 maintains an impressive streamlined appearance. The pilot and (optional) co-pilot are seated in the forward portion of the fuselage with excellent visibility forward, below, above and to the sides. Entry is via a hinged automobile-style door. The passenger cabin - with room for six - offers hinged doors to either side of the fuselage with large windows. The Turbomeca powerplant sits atop and to the rear of the passenger cabin with exhaust jettisoned out through a cylindrical system aft. The rotor mast fits the main rotor high away from the fuselage and is made up of a three-bladed main rotor system. The empennage, adding to the AS350's distinct look, is long and slender and sports horizontal planes at about midway. The tail section is made up of a dorsal vertical tail fin with a shorter ventral fin below. The tail rotor sits to the starboard side of the aircraft. The undercarriage features a fixed skid arrangement.
Military operators of the AS350 series include Australia, Brazil (Brazil has built single- and twin-engined versions locally under license by Helibras), Chile, Ecuador, Vietnam and the United Kingdom among others. The AS350 fits equally well within the realm of security operations and is used as such by police forces in Austria, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, South Africa and the United States - US police forces being a quantitative user of note. The AS350 has also found a home in the civilian markets of the world and operates in this capacity for Austria, Chile, Finland, Hungary, Iran, Iceland, Italy, New Zealand and Sweden among others (see variants list for full report). Air tours across Hawaii make heavy use of the AS350 series in their scenic flights over the various islands.
The AS350 has since been branched out into a twin engine known as the AS355 Ecureuil 2 and the single-engine EC130 Ecureuil while the AS350 is marketed in North America as the Astar.
Israel's Elbit Systems has ordered four H125s to modify for Israeli Police service. Introduction is expected for 2016.