AV7224007 Westland Gazelle AH.1 Royal Marines 3CBS ZA730 Falklands 1982.
The Aérospatiale Gazelle is a French five-seat helicopter, commonly used for light transport, scouting and light attack duties. It is powered by a single 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.
During its Cold War service period, the Army Gazelles flew over 660,000 hours and had over 1,000 modifications made to the aircraft. From the early 1980s, Army-operated Gazelles were fitted with the Gazelle Obvervation Aid, a gyro-stabilised sight to match their target finding capability with that of the Lynx. The type also had a limited, special operations aviation role with 8 Flight Army Air Corps.The type was also frequently used to perform airborne patrols in Northern Ireland. On 17 February 1978, a British Army Gazelle crashed near Jonesborough, County Armagh, after coming under fire from the Provisional IRA during a ground skirmish.
During the Falklands War, the Gazelle played a valuable role operating from the flight decks of Royal Navy ships. Under a rapidly-performed crash programme specifically for the Falklands conflict, Gazelles were fitted with 68mm SNEB rocket pods and various other optional equipment such as armour plating, flotation gear and folding blade mechanisms.Two Royal Marines Gazelles were shot down on the first day of the landings at San Carlos Water. In a high-profile incident of friendly fire on 6 June 1982, an Army Air Corps Gazelle was mistaken for a low-flying Argentine C-130 Hercules and was shot down by HMS Cardiff, a British Type 42 Destroyer.
The Gazelle also operated in reconnaissance and liaison roles during the War in Afghanistan. In 2007, it was reported that, while many British helicopters had struggled with the conditions of the Afghan and Iraqi theatres, the Gazelle was the “best performing model” with roughly 80% being available for planned operations.Various branches of the British military have operated Gazelles in other theatres, such as during the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq and in the 1999 intervention in Kosovo.While the type was originally intended to be retired in 2012, the Gazelle will continue to be operated in a policing capacity in Northern Ireland until 2018, at which point the Police Service of Northern Ireland is to have the assets to fill this role itself