The EC655 “Tiger” is an attack helicopter formerly made by Eurocopter and now manufactured by Airbus. It first took flight in 1991 and was officially introduced in 2003.
The Tiger is the product of Cold War development projects. At first it was meant to be an anti-tank platform to combat a possible Soviet invasion of Western Europe. It turns out that the Soviet Union would collapse before the development of the Tiger was complete, but France and Germany chose to finish what they started and the Tiger became the multirole attack helicopter we know today.
The design of the Tiger is basically the same as that of most other attack helicopters. The two crew sit in tandem one behind the other. Granting the helicopter a very narrow profile.
The Tiger is incredibly flexible thanks to its design. It can operate as a recon vehicle, provide anti-tank and close air support, maritime missions and escort duties. It’s an all-weather aircraft that flies at any time of day.
The Tiger is exceptionally agile thanks to the unique design properties of its 13-meter , four blade hingeless rotor. This makes full loops and negative-g maneuvers a possibility, with a little help from the two Turbomeca Rolls-Royce MTR390 turboshaft engines.
The Tiger has developed a reputation for its ease of handling, but does present a higher workload to the crew compared to older platforms. Both crew have access to everything, including primary flight controls and all weapon systems, a redundancy that adds to the survivability of the Tiger.
Further helping the Tiger stay in one piece is the presence of stealth technology. Visual, radar, IR and acoustic signatures are as minimal as the designers could make them. Stealth and agility are the cornerstones of the Tiger’s survival strategy, rather than the ability to take hits the way a Mil Mi-24 Hind does.
The Tiger is the first all-composite European helicopter. Even early Tigers had advanced features such as glass cockpits and state of the art stealth.
Tigers have seen combat in Afghanistan, Libya and Mali. Britain, the Netherlands, and Australia are counted among its customers and now Spain and Saudi Arabia can be counted there too.
As of 2013 a total production of 206 units was planned and the Tiger remains in production and service today.