Word in the NYTtoday is that the French are replacing their aging Gazelle helicopters with a deployment of the fancy new Eurocopter Tiger. The Gazelle was a decent light attack chopper for a long time, but it’s getting old and is no longer up to the hard environmental conditions of Afghanistan. So, the French Army has decided to deploy their latest and greatest, with not incidentally their best pilots, to see if they can improve the support they give to the ground troops.
All well and good, until one realizes a couple of key facts:
1) The Tiger is strictly a scout/attack bird. Although highly capable in those roles, it is useless in the ways that matter in a COIN dogfight like Afghanistan, i.e air assault, logistical support, Medevac, etc.
2) As the article notes, a grand total of THREE Tigers will be deployed, replacing three Gazelles that will be withdrawn. Three? Are you shitting me? Is that the best the French can do? Three measly helicopters.
Obviously, the French think of it as a large jump in capabilities. As one French officer notes:
“Two Tigers can do the job of eight Gazelles,” said a senior staff officer, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
So, if one follows the logic, take away three Gazelles, add three Tigers (which are four times as capable) and the net effect is that the French now have the equivalent of twelve helicopters. Hardly a massive contribution, considering that the U.S. has over 120 helicopters based in Afghanistan, and the UK another forty or so.
I won’t fault the valuable and difficult work that the French Army is doing in Kapisa Province, but one wonders if they’re getting the proper level of support from Paris.