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Aérospatiale Gazelle

The Aérospatiale Gazelle is a helicopter with a seating capacity of five, that was developed and initially manufactured by the French aircraft company Sud Aviation, and later by Aérospatiale.

It holds the distinction of being the first helicopter to incorporate a fenestron tail in place of a traditional tail rotor.

Additionally, it was the first helicopter to be modified for single-pilot operations under instrument flight rules.

The Gazelle helicopter was created in the 1960s to replace the Alouette II and fulfil the French Army’s need for a lightweight observation aircraft.

France and the United Kingdom collaborated on the project through a joint production and development agreement with Westland Aircraft.

Despite being larger than the Alouette series, the Gazelle still utilises a single Turbomeca Astazou turbine engine.

On April 7, 1967, the Gazelle successfully completed its inaugural flight.

The first operational Gazelles were introduced in 1971.

Initially, production lines for this model were set up in France and Britain.

Subsequently, it was also manufactured under licence by SOKO in Yugoslavia and the Arab British Helicopter Company (ABHCO) in Egypt.

Various armed versions, designed for specific roles such as anti-tank gunship (SA 342M), light support (SA 341F), and anti-aircraft variants, were quickly developed for different branches of the French armed forces.

The Gazelle was utilised by all branches of the British armed forces in a range of capacities.

The Gazelle has been purchased and operated by numerous international customers.

Although primarily used for military purposes such as light transport, reconnaissance, and light attack missions, the Gazelle has also found applications with civilian operators.

Throughout its extensive operational history, the Gazelle helicopter has been involved in numerous conflicts worldwide.

For instance, it was utilized by Syria during the 1982 Lebanon War, Rwanda during the Rwandan Civil War in the 1990s, and by various participants on both sides of the 1991 Gulf War.

As the twenty-first century unfolded, many operators began the process of replacing the Gazelle with more advanced rotorcraft.

In the case of the French military, the Gazelle was replaced as an attack helicopter by the larger and more modern Eurocopter Tiger, although it continued to serve in the role of a scout helicopter for a period of time.

Several operators have chosen to upgrade their Gazelle helicopters to ensure their continued service, and as of 2024, this type of rotorcraft is still in use by multiple countries.

Production of the Gazelle ceased in 1996.



1 or 2


Up to 3 or 4 passengers


11.97 m (39 ft 3 in) including rotor


3.15 m (10 ft 4 in) overall

2.72 m (8 ft 11 in) to top of rotor hub

Empty weight

917 kg (2,022 lb)

Max take-off weight

1,800 kg (3,968 lb)

Fuel capacity

735 l (194 US gal; 162 imp gal)


13 l (3.4 US gal; 2.9 imp gal) for engine

3.5 l (0.92 US gal; 0.77 imp gal) for gearbox


1 × Turbomeca Astazou IIIA turboshaft,

440 kW (590 hp)

Main rotor diameter

10.5 m (34 ft 5 in)

Main rotor area

86.5 m2 (931 sq ft)


0012 section


Maximum speed

310 km/h (190 mph, 170 kn) at sea level

Cruise speed

264 km/h (164 mph, 143 kn) max cruise at sea level

Economical cruise speed

233 km/h (145 mph; 126 kn)


361 km (224 mi, 195 nmi) at sea level with maximum fuel

Range with pilot and 500 kg (1,100 lb)

233 km (145 mi; 126 nmi)

Service ceiling

5,000 m (16,000 ft)

Hover ceiling IGE

2,850 m (9,350 ft)

Hover ceiling OGE

2,000 m (6,600 ft)

Rate of climb

9 m/s (1,800 ft/min) max at sea level

Disk loading

19.5 kg/m2 (4.0 lb/sq ft)



2 x forward-firing 7.62 mm (0.300 in) machine-guns (optional)


Matra or Brandt 2.75 in (70 mm)


68 mm (2.7 in) rocket pods (optional)


4x AS.11 or 2x AS.12 wire guided missiles

4 x or 6 x Euromissile HOT (optional)


UHF, VHF, and HF radios; navigation equipment such as VOR and TACAN;

Standard blind flying instruments.

Helicopters: An Illustrated History of their Impact-S S McGowen.
How the Helicopter Changed Modern Warfare-W Boyne.
National Air and Space Museum of France.


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