Gazelle's Get A New Lease Of Life
Tri-Service

Gazelles Get A New Lease Of Life

One of the military's longest serving helicopters is on course to become a record breaker.  The five-seat Gazelle will remain in service for...

Gazelle's Get A New Lease Of Life
One of the military's longest serving helicopters is on course to become a record breaker. 
 
The five-seat Gazelle will remain in service for at least another nine years after the MoD announced a new contract to extend its life. 
 
It means the helicopters, affectionately known as the "whistling chicken leg", will pass the 50-year mark. 
 
Forces TV spoke with Tim Ripley from IHS Jane's about the aircraft.
 
45153753.jpg
An Army Air Corps Gazelle reconnaissance helicopter is pictured at the British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS) in Canada
 
Forces TV:
The Gazelle is an old helicopter, but clearly it still has a vital role in the Army Air Corps? 
 
Tim Ripley (IHS Jane's):
Indeed, the Gazelle was designed back in the 1960s - Anglo/French design - Westland and, then, Aerospatiale, put together a classic helicopter. 
 
It was a record breaker, it broke new ground when they designed it, and the design has proved to (have lasted) a very long time.
 
Forces TV:
How did you come across the story that its life was being extended?
 
Tim Ripley (IHS Jane's):
I was at the Royal International Air Tattoo a few weeks ago and got speaking to some members of the Army Air Corps who were standing in front of their Gazelle and I jokingly asked them "When's your helicopter going into a museum?" and they indignantly said "It isn't". 
 
It was quite a revalation... but obviously they have a need and they think they can keep them working.
 
Onegazellewithlynx.jpg
A Gazelle helicopter being secured to the flight deck of HMS Albion before refuelling during Exercise Aurora
 
Forces TV:
It's certainly a versatile aircraft, and over the last four decades, what kind of service has it seen around the world?
 
Tim Ripley (IHS Jane's):
It first saw service in Northern Island in the 1970s, then it was part of the Expeditionary Force to the Falklands, the first Gulf War (in) '91, then to Bosnia, then the Balkans, and the final conflict was the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
 
But in between all those foreign conflicts (it) kept serving in Northern Island and at home with the regular and the Territorial Army.
 
45139327.jpg
A Gazelle helecopter from the Royal Marines kicks up a storm whilst coming in to land at the desert air base in Oman during Exercise Saif Sereea
 
Forces TV:
You said that when you were speaking to those members of the Army Air Corps they were indignant that it might actually be being retired, what is really behind the extension of its life - is it bad planning on the MoD's part, or are they just making good use of the assets they have?
 
Tim Ripley (IHS Jane's):
Well, it's no secret that the defence budget is under great stress because the MoD has very tight budgets, they've got to buy the new Trident replacement, they've got to buy lots of other new kit, so there isn't very much spare money to go around to buy new, light observation helicopters which are not very sexy... hardware and they're not intended to go into the front line - the Gazelle is mostly used in the UK and on training exercises, so (the forces that don't go outside the UK to fight have) got to make do with what they've got.
 
GazelleswithLynx.jpg
A static display of three Gazelle AH Mk1s and a Lynx Mk8 at the International Air Day at RNAS Yeovilton
 
Forces TV:
You say 'make do' Tim, is it bad news or good news that they're being extended? 
 
Tim Ripley (IHS Jane's):
Well, the design was pretty revolutionary when it was (come up with) in the 1960s, it's proved the test of time.
 
It does the job - it's not very flashy, it doesn't have very many computers in it (but) it's not meant to be a flashy helicopter.
 
It's a very bog standard helicopter (but) it does the job.