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Aerospatiale SA342 Gazelle

France (1973)
Picture of Aerospatiale SA342 Gazelle Lightweight Multi-Role Military / Civilian Helicopter
Picture of Aerospatiale SA342 Gazelle Lightweight Multi-Role Military / Civilian Helicopter Picture of Aerospatiale SA342 Gazelle Lightweight Multi-Role Military / Civilian Helicopter
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The lightweight, multi-purpose French Aerospatiale Gazelle helicopter eventually found homes in both the domestic and export markets.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Aerospatiale SA342 Gazelle Lightweight Multi-Role Military / Civilian Helicopter.  Entry last updated on 6/21/2018. Authored by Dan Alex. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

Since its service introduction in 1973, the Sud Aviation (later Aerospatiale) Gazelle series of lightweight helicopters proved popular with many foreign operators. The type was taken into service in both civilian and military circles and is regarded as a robust and versatile package despite its lightweight classification. The primary operator of the series remains the French Army, for whom it was developed for, and the line has seen considerable combat service for its time in the sky.

Development of the Gazelle stemmed from a French Army requirement calling for a successor to follow the aging fleet of Aerospatiale "Alouette III" light helicopters. This led the French concern of Sud Aviation to begin development of such a new rotary-wing platform in 1966 resulting in the "SA340" prototype which carried a conventional tail unit from the Alouette II helicopter series. A successful first-flight was undertaken on April 7th, 1967 and four pre-series aircraft (SA341) were ultimately completed. Before the end, the conventional tail rotor unit gave way to a Fenestron tail rotor unit. Evaluations of this helicopter system revealed a platform that was highly agile and fast, allowing the design to claim several speed records of the time. This preceded service entry of what became the "Gazelle" in 1973 and the helicopter has since been built under various brand labels: Sud Aviation (later to become Aerospatiale), Westland and Soko.

The Gazelle remains in service as of this writing (2017) with several major and minor operators. Production spanned from 1967 until 1996 and some 1,775 units were completed in that span.

The base Gazelle design carries a crew of one or two and can seat up to three passengers in the cabin. Overall length is 39 feet with a main rotor diameter of 34.5 feet and a height of 10.2 feet. Empty weight is 2,000lb against an MTOW of 4,000lb. Power is from a Turbomeca Astazou IIIA turboshaft engine developing 590 horsepower and driving a three-bladed main rotor and a shrouded Fenestron tail rotor unit. Performance includes a maximum speed of 195 miles per hour, a cruising speed of 164 miles per hour, a range out to 415 miles and a service ceiling up to 16,405 feet. Rate-of-climb is 1,770 feet-per-minute.

Its outward form is conventional, featuring a heavily glazed frontal section for optimal viewing out-of-the-cockpit. The engine is seated over the rear area of the fuselage and a drive shaft runs along the length of the tail stem to power the shrouded tail unit. The tail rotor is buried within the extreme aft of the empennage and forms the base of the vertical tail fin. Outboard vertical planes are seated towards the rear of the tail unit along a pair of horizontal planes. The undercarriage is a simple four-point skid assembly which reduces procurement costs and maintenance requirements. Overhead is the main rotor mast holding the three-bladed main rotor unit.

The Gazelle has been build through many variants to cover various upgrades, roles and customers. The initial prototype was the aforementioned SA340 and pre-series models were known as SA341 (1968). At least one of the pre-series stock was modified for British Army service as the Gazelle AH.1. The initial French Army production model became the SA.341.1001 and this first-flew in August of 1971 with the Turbomeca Astazou IIIA series engine, a revised tail unit and a lengthened fuselage.

The SA341B followed and this was built to a British Army standard by Westland and designated locally as the Gazelle AH.1. The Astazou IIIN2 engine was fitted and service entry came in July of 1974 after which some 158 were produced. The Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm (FAA) was also the recipient of the SA341C - known locally as the Gazelle HT.2 by Westland - and these were dedicated training platforms. Thirty were acquired with Astazou IIIN2 series engines. Service entry arrived in December 1974.


Picture of the Aerospatiale SA342 Gazelle Lightweight Multi-Role Military / Civilian Helicopter
Picture of the Aerospatiale SA342 Gazelle Lightweight Multi-Role Military / Civilian Helicopter


The SA341D (Westland Gazelle HT.3) was the training platform of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and based largely on the SA341C. Fourteen were acquired from July 1973 on. A communications-minded variant was also taken on by the RAF under the SA341E / Westland Gazelle HCC.4 designation.

The French Army then took on the SA341F with its Astazou IIIC engine fit and 166 were delivered, some with automatic cannon support.

The SA341G marked a civilian market form of the Gazelle and given the Astazou IIIA engine. Certification was had in June of 1972 and the aircraft was differentiated by its lengthened cabin. The SA342J was the civilian market version of the SA342L (detailed below) and given the Astazou XIV engine with improved tail rotor functionality. These changes allow the MTOW to be increased and service entry followed in 1977. A militarized version of this mark was the SA342K which carried the same engine and featured shrouded intakes for desert operations. This mark appeared in May 1973.

The SA342L was a military model based in the SA342J carrying the same engine though with broadened provision for armament and special-mission equipment. The type also supported the Euromissile "HOT" Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) which added a tank-killing capability to the line. The French Army adopted the SA342M as its anti-tank platform. This model carried the Astazou XIV engine and could be armed with the HOT ATGM missile. Special sighting equipment was also intalled.

The militarized export version of the Gazelle was under the SA341H designation and these were powered by the Astazou IIIB engine. SOKO of Yugoslavia carried on local production of this mark and delivered various guises all based on original Aerospatiale marks: there was the HO-42 based in the SA341H, the scout-minded HI-42 "Hera" (SA341H), the attack HN-42M "Gama" (SA341H) and the HS-42 MEDEVAC platform (SA341H). The HN-45M "Gama 2" was an attack platform based on the SA342L.

The SA342M1 involved the SA342M models outfitted with the main rotor blades of the Ecureuil light helicopter in an attempt to improve upon performance. The SA349 marked a testbed which evaluated wing stubs for armaments-carrying.

Operators of the Gazelle series have ranged from Angola and Bosnia and Herzegovina to Syria and the United Kingdom (currently only with the Army Air Corps). Former operators include China, Ireland, Serbia and Montenegro, Republic Srpska, the United Kingdom (RAF and RN) and the former Yugoslavia. Beyond its production by SOKO of Yugoslavia, the series has also been manufactured under license by the Arab British Helicopter Company in Egypt.

The Gazelle series is a veteran of many wars and local and regional conflicts including the 1982 Lebanon War and the 1991 Gulf War. The product remains in service with French Army forces (2017) as its lead air scout and is fielded in conjunction with its attack helicopter component - the Eurocopter Tiger (detailed elsewhere on this site).




Cockpit picture from the Aerospatiale SA342 Gazelle Lightweight Multi-Role Military / Civilian Helicopter
Aerospatiale SA342 Gazelle Cockpit Picture


Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 200mph
Lo: 100mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (165mph).

    Graph average of 150 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the SA 342L Gazelle's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
1775
1775


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


Altitude Visualization
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Origin: France
Year: 1973
Type: Lightweight Multi-Role Military / Civilian Helicopter
Manufacturer(s): Aerospatiale - France / Westand - Britain
Production: 1,775
Status: Active, In-Service
Global Operators:
Angola; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Burundi; Cameroon; China; Cyprus; Ecuador; Egypt; France; Gabon; Guinea; Iraq; Ireland; Kuwait; Lebanon; Libya; Montenegro; Morocco; Qatar; Republic Srpska; Rwanda; Serbia; Serbia and Montenegro; Senegal; Syria; Tunisia; United Arab Emirates; United Kingdom; Yugoslavia.
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the SA 342L Gazelle model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
2


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
31.27 ft


Meters
9.53 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
34.45 ft


Meters
10.5 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
10.43 ft


Meters
3.18 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
2,202 lb


Kilograms
999 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
4,409 lb


Kilograms
2,000 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Turbomeca XIVM turboshaft engine developing 590 horsepower while driving three blade main rotor and Fenestron-shrouded tail rotor.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
165 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
265 kph


Knots
143 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
441 mi


Kilometers
710 km


Nautical Miles
383 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
1,532 ft


Meters
467 m


Miles
0.29 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
2,400 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
732 m/min

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an air-to-air missile weapon
Graphical image of a short-range air-to-air missile
Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft anti-tank guided missile
Graphical image of an aircraft rocket pod
Armament - Hardpoints (2 (if wing stubs fitted)):

If armed, mission-specific armament can include:

Rocket Pods, 4 OR 6 x HOT Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs), Matra Mistal Air-to-Air Missiles (AAMs), Reconnaissance Pods, Mission Pods, 7.62mm machine guns, and 1 x 20mm GIAT autocannon (starboard side mounting only).
Variants: Series Model Variants
• SA 340-01 - Prototype Designation
• SA 341 - Second Protoype Designation; Larger cabin; Composite blades.
• SA 341B Gazelle AH.1 - Initial Production Models (British Army).
• SA 341C Gazelle HT.2 - Initial Production Models (British Navy).
• SA 341D Gazelle HT.3 - Trainer Variant
• SA 341E Gazelle HCC.4 - Transport model for the Royal Air Force.
• SA 341F - French Army Model
• SA 341G - Civilian Variant
• SA 341H - Military Export Model
• SA 342J - Civilian Model
• SA 342K - Military Export Model
• SA 342L - Final Export Military Model
• SA 342M - Final French Army Production Variant; Fitted with Astral AAMs.
• Soko H-42 - Yugoslav-produced variant of SA 341H model.
• Soko H-45 - Yugoslav-produced variant of the SA 342L model.
• AH.Mk 1