SA 342 L TJ-XBF Gazelle by Sud Aviation

The Aérospatiale Gazelle (company designations SA 340, SA 341 and SA 342) is a French five-seat helicopter, commonly used for light transport, scouting and light attack duties. It is powered by a single Turbomeca Astazou turbine engine and was the first helicopter to feature a fenestron tail instead of a conventional tail rotor. It was designed by Sud Aviation, later Aérospatiale, and manufactured in France and the United Kingdom through a joint production agreement with Westland Aircraft. Further manufacturing under license was performed by SOKO in Yugoslavia and the Arab British Helicopter Company (ABHCO) in Egypt.

Since being introduced to service in 1973, the Gazelle has been procured and operated by a number of export customers. It has also participated in numerous conflicts around the world, including by Syria during the 1982 Lebanon War, by Rwanda during the Rwandan Civil War in the 1990s, and by numerous participants on both sides of the 1991 Gulf War. In French service, the Gazelle has been supplemented as an attack helicopter by the larger Eurocopter Tiger, but remains in use primarily as a scout helicopter.

The Gazelle originated in a French Army requirement for a lightweight observation helicopter intended to replace the Aérospatiale Alouette III; early on in the aircraft’s development, the decision was taken to enlarge the helicopter to enable greater versatility and make it more attractive for the export market. In 1966, Sud Aviation began working on a light observation helicopter to replace its Alouette II with seating for five people.

Early on, the Gazelle attracted British interest, which resulted in a major joint development and production work share agreement between Sud Aviation and Westland. The deal, signed in February 1967, allowed the production in Britain of 292 Gazelles and 48 Sud Aviation SA 330 Puma medium transport helicopters ordered by the British armed forces; in return Sud Aviation was given a work share in the manufacturing programme for the 40 Westland Lynx naval helicopters for the French Navy.

Air museum in Saint-Victoret.

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