News from the British Army signals the end of an era for its Gazelle helicopters, marking a pivotal transition in their air service.
End of Service
The British Army is set to bid farewell to its last Gazelle helicopters. Their final flight, carried out by one of the last remaining helicopters in the Army Air Corps, took place on October 23. These helicopters will be officially retired by the end of the month, ahead of the previously planned retirement date in March 2024.
Gazelle in the Armed Forces
The Gazelle helicopters have been a mainstay in the British armed forces for nearly half a century. A collaboration between Aerospatiale and Westland led to the operation of up to 250 Gazelle helicopters over the past 49 years. The UK's use of the Gazelle contrasts with France, where it is solely operated by the ALAT. In the UK, the Gazelle has served the Army Air Corps, Royal Air Force, and the Royal Navy, aiding in tasks such as training, reconnaissance, and evacuation operations.
Missions and Deployments
Dubbed the “whistling chicken leg”, the British Gazelle helicopters have had significant deployments in various conflict zones, including the Falklands/Malvinas, Iraq, and Kosovo. As of the start of 2022, a mere 17 Gazelle helicopters remained in service, with an additional 7 held in reserve.
Praises for the Gazelle
Despite only having one engine, making it less powerful than many of its counterparts, the Gazelle helicopter is lauded for its reliability, agility, and superior visibility from within its cockpit.
With the retirement of the Gazelle, the Army Air Corps' duties are expected to be assumed by H135M helicopters, provided by Airbus Helicopters. Interestingly, the ALAT in France has no plans to retire its Gazelle helicopters until 2039, according to the VEGA contract with Airbus Helicopters for operational maintenance. The Gazelle helicopters are expected to be replaced by H-160M helicopters under the “Joint Light Helicopter” program.