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|SA 341/SA 342 Gazelle|
|Gazelle SA 342M of the French Army's Light Aviation (ALAT), Army's Helicopters Squadron (EHADT)|
|Role||Utility helicopter / Attack helicopter|
|First flight||7 April 1967 (SA.340)|
|Primary users||French Army
Serbian Air Force
Egyptian Air Force
Lebanese Air Force
|Number built||1,775|
|Developed from||Aérospatiale Alouette III|
The Aérospatiale Gazelle is a five-seat light helicopter, powered by a single turbine engine. It was designed and manufactured in France by Sud Aviation (later Aérospatiale), and has also been manufactured under licence by Westland Aircraft in the United Kingdom (as the Westland Gazelle), by SOKO in Yugoslavia, and ABHCO in Egypt. The Gazelle is and has been used by many military forces around the world.
Design and development 
The Aérospatiale Gazelle originated in a French Army requirement for a lightweight utility helicopter. The design quickly attracted British interest, leading to a development and production share out agreement with British company Westland Helicopters. The deal, signed in February 1967, allowed the production in Britain of 292 Gazelles and 48 Aérospatiale Pumas ordered by the British armed forces; in return Aérospatiale was given a work share in the manufacturing programme for the 40 Westland Lynx naval helicopters for the French Navy. Gazelles were also manufactured in Egypt by ABHCO and in Yugoslavia by SOKO.
Though the general layout resembles that of the Alouette series, the Gazelle featured several important innovations. It was the first helicopter to carry a Fenestron or fantail, which reduces noise considerably. The rotor blades were made of composite materials, now widely used in modern helicopters.
In service with the French Army Light Aviation (ALAT), the Gazelle is used primarily as an anti-tank gunship (SA 342M) armed with Euromissile HOT missiles. A light support version (SA 341F) equipped with a 20 mm cannon is used as well as anti-air variants carrying the Mistral air-to-air missile (Gazelle Celtic based on the SA 341F, Gazelle Mistral based on the SA 342M). The latest anti-tank and reconnaissance versions carry the Viviane thermal imagery system and so are called Gazelle Viviane. The Gazelle is being replaced in frontline duties by the Eurocopter Tiger, but will continue to be used for light transport and liaison roles.
It also served with all branches of the British armed forces—the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy (including Royal Marines) and the British Army in a variety of roles. Four versions of the Gazelle were used by the British forces. The SA 341D was designated Gazelle HT.3 in RAF service, equipped as a helicopter pilot trainer (hence HT). The SA 341E was used by the RAF for communications duties and VIP transport as the Gazelle HCC.4. The SA 341C was purchased as the Gazelle HT.2 pilot trainer for the Royal Navy. The training variants have now been replaced by the Squirrel HT1. The SA 341B was equipped to a specification for the Army Air Corps as the Gazelle AH.1 (from Army Helicopter Mark 1). It was used as an Air Observation Post (AOP) for directing artillery fire, airborne forward air controller (ABFAC) directing ground-attack aircraft, casualty evacuation, liaison, and command and control, and communications relay.
Operational history 
- The French army deployed the Gazelle on many occasions, especially during interventions in Africa and peacekeeping operations. This includes Chad (in the 1980s), the former Yugoslavia (1990s), Djibouti (1991–1992), Somalia (1993), Cote d'Ivoire (2002–present) and Afghanistan (2002–present).
- During Operation Desert Storm, HOT-carrying Gazelles were used against Iraqi armour. They were also used in 2011, operating from the assault ship Tonnerre, under NATO in Libya to support the Libyan rebels' uprising against pro-Gadhafi troops.
- The French Army has employed Gazelles in several operations in Africa (at least in Chad, Djibouti, Somalia, and the Cote d'Ivoire) but the details of some of these operations are hard to know. In April 2011 four Gazelle attack helicopters accompanied by two United Nations Mi-24 gunships fired rockets and misiles on rebel president Gbagbo compound defences, neutralizing heavy weapons until he agreed to surrender.. In Mali, in January 2013 Gazelles were used as gunships in the Opération Serval.
- Iraq received a number of Gazelles and HOT missiles in the 1970s and 1980s. They were used intensively in the Iran–Iraq War. During the Gulf War they saw little use, because of Allied air supremacy.
- Syria purchased the first 18 SA.342 Gazelles in 1977, in response to Israeli Bell AH-1 Cobras. These Gazelles entered service with the 976 Attack Helicopter Squadron, equipped with AS.12 anti-tank guided missiles. Additional SA.342s were supplied, enabling the SyAAF to organize a full brigade of three squadrons, and one unit used for liaison and cooperation with police. France supplied HOT ATGMs with those helicopters, considered at that time one of the most advanced ATGMs. Each Gazelle could carry four HOT missiles, mounted on stubs behind the cockpit.
- Syrian Gazelles were used during 1982 Lebanon War. The three units equipped with the type flew slightly over 100 combat sorties during four days of battles between the Syrians and Israelis, in June 1982. Syrian Army claimed they had large success against Israeli armour (77 kills, 30 Israeli tanks and 50 other vehicles), while suffering medium losses (five helicopters). One was captured by Israeli forces, tested and now is displayed in IAF museum.
- SyAAF helicopters and special “hunter-killer teams” of the Syrian Army developed simple but effective tactics to ambush and tie down Israeli mechanized formations in the local hilly terrain, roads, and dozens of villages in southern Lebanon.
- Kuwait said its Gazelles were used during the Iraqi invasion, destroying some Iraqi trucks or APCs. Several were captured and used by Iraqi Army.
- The Gazelle was used by the Ecuadoran Army during the Cenepa war, for escort of helicopters and close air support.
- United Kingdom
- The Gazelle was used in combat in the Falkland Islands, Kuwait, Iraq and Kosovo, and with 8 Flight Army Air Corps in support of 22 Special Air Service Regiment. It was also used for air patrols in Northern Ireland. British Gazelles were only armed when used in the Falklands, where they were fitted with machine guns and rocket pods, but these were not used. Three Gazelles were lost in action in 1982, two due to ground fire, and one shot down by a Sea Dart surface to air missile fired by HMS Cardiff in a friendly fire incident. British Gazelles performed as scouts for other attack platforms in 1991 Gulf War. Royal Navy Gazelles from the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) operated briefly in Afghanistan in 2002.
- The Gazelles flown by the British Army Air Corps have recently been fitted with a Direct Voice Input (DVI) system developed by QinetiQ. This allows speaker-independent voice control of avionics equipment without removing their hands from the flight controls, or their eyes from the outside world.
- SA 341/342 Gazelle GAMA was used by the Republika Srpska Air Force during the Yugoslav wars (1991–1995), and by the Yugoslav air force during the Kosovo war.
- Lebanon obtained 11 second hand ex-UAE Gazelles, ready to operate with HOT armament, but armed only with machine guns. France refused to provide Lebanon with HOT missiles for their Gazelles for fear they could reach Hizabulla. These Gazelles were used by the Lebanese Air Force against the Al Qaeda-inspired militants of Fatah al-Islam during the battle of Nahr el-Bared. In 2010 it was reported that France offered to arm Lebanon’s Gazelle helicopters with HOT anti-tank missiles, but seems unlikely to happen.
- 24 SA342L Gazelle helicopters were bought, half of them armed with HOT missiles and the other half with 20mm guns. Some were used in Western Sahara to fight Polisario columns.
- The Irish Air Corps formerly operated one Gazelle helicopter as a pilot training aircraft as of 2011.
- SA 340
- First prototype, first flown on 7 April 1967 with a conventional Alouette type tail rotor.
- SA 341
- Four pre-production machines. First flown on 2 August 1968. The third was equipped to British Army requirements and assembled in France as the prototype Gazelle AH.1. This was first flown on 28 April 1970.
- SA 341.1001
- First French production machine. Initial test flight 6 August 1971. Featured a longer cabin, an enlarged tail unit and an uprated Turbomeca Astazou IIIA engine.
- SA 341B (Westland Gazelle AH.1)
- Version built for the British Army; Featured the Astazou IIIN2 engine, a nightsun searchlight and Decca Doppler 80 Radar. First Westland-assembled version flown on 31 January 1972, this variant entered service on 6 July 1974. A total of 158 were produced.
- SA 341C (Westland Gazelle HT.2)
- Training helicopter version built for British Fleet Air Arm; Features included the Astazou IIIN2 engine, a stability augmentation system and a hoist. First flown on 6 July 1972, this variant entered operational service on 10 December 1974. A total of 30 were produced.
- SA 341D (Westland Gazelle HT.3)
- Training helicopter version built for British Royal Air Force; Featuring the same engine and stability system as the 341C, this version was first delivered on 16 July 1973. A total of 14 were produced.
- SA 341E (Westland Gazelle HCC.4)
- Communications helicopter version built for British Royal Air Force; Only one example of this variant was produced.
- SA 341F
- Version built for the French Army; Featuring the Astazou IIIC engine, 166 of these were produced. Some of these were fitted with an M621 20-mm cannon.
- SA 341G
- Civil variant, powered by an Astazou IIIA engine. Officially certificated on 7 June 1972; subsequently became first helicopter to obtain single-pilot IFR Cat 1 approval in the US. Also developed into "Stretched Gazelle" with the cabin modified to allow an additional 8 inches (20cm) legroom for the rear passengers.
- SA 341H
- Military export variant, powered by an Astazou IIIB engine. Built under licence agreement signed on 1 October 1971 by SOKO in Yugoslavia.
- SOKO HO-42
- Yugoslav-built version of SA 341H.
- SOKO HI-42 Hera
- Yugoslav-built scout version of SA 341H.
- SOKO HN-42M Gama
- Yugoslav-built attack version of SA 341H.
- SOKO HN-45M Gama 2
- Yugoslav-built attack version of SA 342L.
- SOKO HS-42
- Yugoslav-built medic version of SA 341H.
- SA 342J
- Civil version of SA 342L. This was fitted with the more powerful 649kW (870shp) Astazou XIV engine and an improved Fenestron tail rotor. With an increased take-off weight, this variant was approved on 24 April 1976, and entered service in 1977.
- SA 342K
- Military export version for "hot and dry areas". Fitted with the more powerful 649-kW (870-shp) Astazou XIV engine and shrouds over the air intakes. First flown on 11 May 1973; initially sold to Kuwait.
- SA 342L
- Military companion of the SA 342J. fitted with the Astazou XIV engine. Adaptable for many armaments and equipment, including six Euromissile HOT anti-tank missiles.
- SA 342M
- French Army anti-tank version fitted with the Astazou XIV engine. Armed with four Euromissile HOT missiles and a SFIM APX M397 stabilised sight.
- SA 342M1
- Standard SA 342M retrofitted with three Ecureuil main blades to improve performance.
Specifications (SA 341) 
Data from Airplane Magazine Vol 1 Issue 6
- Crew: 2
- Capacity: 3 Passengers
- Length: 11.97 m (39 ft 0 in)
- Main rotor diameter: 10.5 m (34 ft 6 in)
- Height: 3.15 m (10 ft 3 in)
- Main rotor area: 86.5 m2 (931 ft2)
- Empty weight: 908 kg (2,002 lb)
- Gross weight: 1,800 kg (3,970 lb)
- Powerplant: 1 × Turbomeca Astazou IIIA turboshaft, 440 kW (590 hp)
- Maximum speed: 310 km/h (193 mph)
- Cruising speed: 264 km/h (164 mph)
- Range: 670 km (416 miles)
- Service ceiling: 5,000 m (16,405 ft)
- Rate of climb: 9 m/s (1,770 ft/min)
Popular culture 
Two Gazelles were modified to star as a high-tech attack/surveillance helicopter in the 1983 action-thriller film Blue Thunder, and in its short-lived television series spinoff. A Gazelle was used as part of the futuristic semi-truck in the television series The Highwayman.
See also 
- Related development
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Related lists
- List of helicopters
- List of active United Kingdom military aircraft
- List of aircraft of the Army Air Corps
- "Mali: Hollande réunit son conseil de Défense à l'Elysée". Libération (in French). 12 January 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
- "Mali : l'opération militaire française "durera le temps nécessaire"". Le Monde. 12 January 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
- In Spanish
- QinetiQ speech recognition technology allows voice control of aircraft systems
- Taylor 1982, p. 55.
- "World Air Forces 2013". Flightglobal Insight. 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
- Serbian Police Aircraft
- "World Air Forces 1993 pg. 48". flightglobal.com. Retrieved 5-April-2013.
- "World Air Forces 1993 pg. 60". flightglobal.com. Retrieved 5-April-2013.
- "Irish Military retired Aircraft". irishmilitaryonline.com. Retrieved 5-April-2013.
- "World Air Forces 1997 pg. 71". flightglobal.com. Retrieved 5-April-2013.
- "World Air Forces 2004pg. 46". flightglobal.com. Retrieved 5-April-2013.
- "RAF SA341D Gazelle HT.3". Retrieved 5-April-2013.
- "Fleet Air Arm SA341C Gazelle HT.2". Retrieved 5-April-2013.
- "World Air Forces 1987 pg. 67". flightglobal.com. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
- ap Rees, Efan. "Your Questions Answered: "Blue Thunder Helicopters"". Air Pictorial, October 1984, Vol. 46 No.10. p.393.
- Eden, Paul, ed. (2004). The Encyclopedia of Modern Military Aircraft. London, UK: Amber Books. ISBN 1-904687-84-9.
- Gunston, Bill; Lake, Jon; Mason, Francis K. (1990). "A-Z of Aircraft: Aerospatiale Gazelle". Airplane Magazine 1 (6): p165.
- Hoyle, Craig (13–19 December 2011). "World Air Force Directory". Flight International. Vol 180 (No. 5321): pp. 26–52. ISSN 0015-3710.
- Taylor, John W. R. (1982). Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1982–83. London: Jane's Yearbooks. ISBN 0-7106-0748-2.
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