France is to replace its three aging Gazelle helicopters deployed in Afghanistan with three Tiger helicopters “imminently” and in any case before the end of the summer. It was at a lunch with 20 or so journalists today that I asked Defense Minister Hervé Morin when the political decision would be taken to send the Tigers to Afghanistan and he gave me a “funny you should ask that” sort of look and said that President Nicolas Sarkozy had taken the decision to do so earlier this week after Morin had suggested to him on Monday that it was time these helicopters were deployed.
When I asked him if some sort of strong political message regarding France's involvement in Afghanistan could be read into the move, he said “not at all, it was simple common sense to replace aging helicopters with the most modern helicopters we have which are ready and waiting.”
A couple of weeks ago during a three-day “military helicopter” press trip, Colonel Pascal Point, helicopter project coordination officer at the French general joint staff, said the Tiger was “ready to be engaged but I don't know when it will be and if the decision is made then three are likely to be sent.”
photo credit: Eurocopter