In 1984, (West) Germany and France realized that their current helicopter gunships were quickly becoming inadequate to meet the fastly advancing Soviet/Warsaw Pact firepower technology, especially the tanks. Their gunships at the time were converted light utility choppers, and were extremely vulnerable due to lack of good countermeasures and armor. So together the two nations decided to team up and design a new one. The "Tiger" was born.
The Tiger is a very high-tech machine comparable in many ways to the American pre-Longbow Apache and Russian Hokum except in maneuverability. The helicopter's nose contains a mounted sight that includes nightvision and thermal imaging. The sight is linked to the pilot's helmet so that it will move in whatever direction the pilot looks. The Tiger also has a TV camera gunner's sight, a thermal imager, and a laser rangefinder mounted atop the mast that is connected to both cockpits (the pilot sits above and behind the gunner).
The main body of the Tiger is mostly made from a strong sandwich of carbon-fiber plastic and Kevlar and is capable of stopping 23-mm cannon fire. The rotors are made from fiber-plastic able to withstand combat damage and bird strikes. Although 80% of the entire helicopter is made from composite material the fuselage is protected from lightning by an embedded copper-bronze grid. The twin engines are mounted side by side above the fuselage.
The development of the Tiger cost somewhere around $1.4 billion dollars and initial plans call for 212 German variants of the Tiger, the "Panzer Abwehr Hubschrauber-2 Tiger," and up to 215 French "Helicoptere Anti-Char Tigre" variants, although the French are considering a reduction on the initial order. Although the Soviet Union is no longer a threat, the Gulf War and the various Balkan Conflicts of the 90's showed that helicopter gunships have not gone out of style. The two nations began receiving shipments in the late 1990's and plan to have the Tiger in service for many years to come.
Type: Two-seat antitank and ground attack helicopter
Powerplant: Two MTU/Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca MTR 390 turboshafts, each delivering 1,171 shp. emergency power.
Max Speed: 175 mph
Initial rate of climb: More than 1,900 fpm
Battlefield Endurance: 2 hr. 50 min.
Hover Ceiling: 6,500 ft.
Weapons: Up to eight HOT or Trigat antiarmor missiles, and four air-to-air missiles. Escort version has 30-mm cannon turret and can carry four rocket pods.
Weights: Empty 7,275 lbs; loaded 13,225 lbs.
Rotor Diameter- 42 ft. 7in.
Length- 46 ft.
Height- 14 ft. 1 in.
In honor of the year the Tiger came to life (1984) I leave you with a quote from a song out of the book of the same name:
Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head!
Aircraft of the World: A Complete Guide