The European Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) has awarded Airbus a contract to develop the Tiger MkIII attack helicopter upgrade for France and Spain.
The award covers the development, production, and initial in-service support of 42 Tiger MkIIIs for France and 18 for Spain, with an option for a further 25 French Tigers to be upgraded. Germany has not yet agreed to join the upgrade program for its Tiger UHT fleet, but the option has been included in the contract.
The upgrade comprises sensor, avionics, communications, and weapons upgrade to the Tiger, including Safran Strix NG sights, the Thales FlytX avionics suite, the Topowl DD helmet-mounted sight display, an Indra IFF upgrade, Thales GNSS, a Safran INS, Thales Contact/Synaps radio and data links for manned/unmanned teaming (MUM-T), as well as Link16 and SATCOM for the Spanish aircraft.
French Tigers will be able to employ the MBDA MAST-F (Future Tactical Air-to-Surface Missile) and Mistral 3 air-to-air missile, while Spain will integrate new 70mm guided rockets and a new, as-yet undisclosed air-to-ground missile.
“The Tiger MkIII program will provide a European answer to the need for a state-of-the-art attack helicopter for the decades to come,” Airbus Helicopters CEO, Bruno Even said in a 2 March release. “With this upgrade, the Tiger will remain an essential and modern asset to its armies and reinforce defence cooperation in Europe. The Tiger MkIII will have no equivalent in the world for high intensity operations and will further improve the connectivity, precision, and fire power capabilities of the current Tiger.”
Unfortunately, the MkIII announcement has come too late for Australia’s fleet of 22 Tiger ARH helicopters. Despite an unsolicited proposal from Airbus to perform the upgrade and acquire additional airframes to meet the Australian Army’s requirements, the Tigers are scheduled to be replace by AH-64E Apache attack helicopters from 2024.