A close look at two pivotal attack helicopters employed by European countries today.
Europe not only operates capable ASW military helicopters and excellent frigates, but also builds and deploys very powerful attack helicopters. The reason behind the European interest in attack helicopters is very obvious. The aerial spaces in the European territory are ideal for helicopter operations. Due to limited space between the nations, helicopters can perform even better than fighter and attack aircraft in some situations. Plus, attack helicopters and military helicopters, in general, can operate as multirole vehicles. At the moment, the very successful Eurocopter Tiger and the Italian A129 Mangusta are the most advanced attack helicopters that European nations have.
The Eurocopter Tiger
Eurocopter Tiger is a twin-engine attack helicopter that started serving in 2003, while it made its first flight in 1991. Airbus Helicopter has produced the national helicopter since 1991. The primary operators of the aircraft are armies belonging to Germany, Australia, France, Spain, and more. It was initially planned to have the role of an anti-tank helicopter that will defend Western Europe from a Soviet invasion. That’s something that makes more sense if you think the development of the aircraft started during the Cold wᴀʀ.
Eurocopter Tiger EC 665 – Multi-Role Combat Helicopter:
The Eurocopter Tiger has an overall length of 45 feet, a height of 12.5 feet, and a designed mission weight of 12,000 pounds. There are a lot of versions of the Tiger, such as the Tiger ARH for armed reconnaissance missions, the HAP for combat support missions, the Tiger UHT multirole fire support helicopter, and, of course, the HAD combat helicopter.
Let’s see the typical armament of the Tiger HAD, the ᴅᴇᴀᴅliest version of the Eurocopter. The aircraft carriers eight Lockheed Martin Hellfire II air-to-ground missiles capable of hitting targets over 5 miles. The Spanish Army has equipped its HAD with the Rafael Spike-ER air-to-ground missiles. Tiger HAD also features four Mistral air-to-air missiles, 70mm rockets, one Nexter 30 mm cannon turret and the Sagem Strix roof-mounted sight.
The Dᴇᴀᴅly AW129
The Agusta A129 Mangusta is an attack helicopter. AgustaWestland designed and manufactured the helicopter. That’s a very important helicopter as it’s the first attack helicopter that was fully developed in the Europe. As for today, only the Italian Army and the Turkey army deploy the A129 Mangusta. Following cooperation between AgustaWestland and Turkey, the Turkish Aerospace Industries created the TAI/AgustaWestland T129 ATAK helicopter. The AW129 is the latest multirole combat helicopter variant of the A129 Mangusta, that serves only the Italian Army.
The aircraft has an overall length of 47 feet and a height of 11 feet. And because it’s all about the weapons on a combat helicopter, let’s see what the AW129 has on it. The attack helicopter can carry the Raytheon Stinger or Mistral air-to-air missiles. The exact Stinger missiles are the Stinger RMP block I missiles that gained their certification on the Italian army in 2003.
Agusta A129 AW129 Mangusta Aviazione dell’Esercito flying Display at Jesolo AirShow 2019:
There are two options for air-to-ground strikes: the Lockheed Martin Hellfire or the Raytheon TOW 2 missiles, but they can use a mix of both in a single mission. Agusta has also installed the HeliTOW system that launch the TOW2A missile. When it comes to rockets, the helicopter can launch both the typical NATO 70 mm rockets but also the 81 mm rockets for long range targets. There is a maximum capacity of four 81 mm rocket launchers. Last but not least, there is also a 20 mm three barrel Gatling-type turreted cannon on the aircraft with 500 rounds.
Why They Are The Most Dangerous In Europe
The two helicopters have a lot of similarities: they have a crew of two members—a pilot and a weapon system officer—they have similar cockpit and designs characteristics, are being used mainly by European armies, and they have proven their effectiveness many times in the real battle.
Eurocopter Tiger and AW129 have shown their precision, survivability, and effectiveness in the battlefield as they have served with a great success in many missions throughout the years. Within the European borders, the two aircraft have really no competition when it comes to the most powerful and ᴅᴇᴀᴅly attack helicopters.
For all the reasons mentioned, the Eurocopter Tiger and the AW129 Mangusta are the best of its kind among the European armies and can compete decently with competitors outside their continent. Between the two, the Eurocopter Tiger is a step above the Agusta helicopter mainly because of its greater armament options. Although, outside Europe, US dominates this field with the AH-64 Apache Guardian and the AH-1Z Viper sitting at the top of the world.