The Aerospatiale Gazelle is a five-seat helicopter used for light transport, training, 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.
A joint production agreement with Sud Aviation, later renamed Aerospatiale and now part of Airbus Helicopters allowed Westland Helicopters Ltd of Yeovil to license build the Gazelle, in part of sale to the British military but also for use by civilian operators. In total, Westland Helicopters produced nearly 300 Gazelle helicopters, with 282 of them being delivered to the British armed forces.
With the exception of the DeHavilland Chipmunk, the Gazelle is the only aircraft to serve with all three arms of the British armed forces; the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Army Air Corps, with four different variants produced:
- Westland SA.341B Gazelle AH.1, for the Army Air Corps and Royal Marines (Commandos)
- Westland SA.341C Gazelle HT.2, for the Royal Navy
- Westland SA.341D Gazelle HT.3, for the Royal Air Force
- Westland SA.341E Gazelle HCC.4, for the Royal Air Force
The first batch of 60 Westland Gazelle were ordered by the Ministry of Defence on 21 August 1970 under contract number "A23A/1012 (69/71117-02)", built by Westland Helicopters Ltd and were issued serial numbers XW842 to XW871 and XW884 to XW913. Of this order, 29 were built as Gazelle AH.1s for the Army Air Corps, 21 as Gazelle HT.2s for the Royal Navy, and 10 to the Royal Air Force, nine as HT.3 trainers and one as a HCC.4 communications/VIP aircraft.
© Tony Osborne - Rotorfocus
A further 82 Gazelles were ordered on 9 December 1971, under contract number "70.71082.00", again built by Westland Helicopters Ltd of Yeovil. This batch of helicopters were serialled XX370 to XX419, and XX431 to XX462. Of the 82 aircraft in this order, 69 were Gazelle AH.1s, nine were Gazelle HT.2s for the Royal Navy and four were HT.3s for the Royal Air Force.
Order number three was for 60 aircraft, serial numbers XZ290 to XZ349. These aircraft were delivered to the Army Air Corps as Gazelle AH.1s. A fourth order, "KZ/21/34", was placed on 22 October 1976 for 13 Westland Gazelles, this time built at Weston-Super-Mare. Serial numbers XZ930 to XZ942 were issued for this batch, of which nine were built as Gazelle HT.3s for the Royal Air Force and four as Gazelle HT.2s for the Royal Navy, however only two were delivered to the Royal Navy, the other two aircraft were diverted to the Empire Test Pilots School at Boscombe Down.
The penultimate order consisted of serial numbers ZA726 to ZA737, ZA767 to ZA777, and ZA801 to ZA804. Of this order of 29 aircraft, 25 were for the Army Air Corps as Gazelle AH.1s and four were for the Royal Air Force as Gazelle HT.3s.
The final order for British military Westland Gazelles were in the serial batches ZB625 to ZB629, ZB646 to ZB649, and ZB665 to ZB693, totalling 38 aircraft. 29 of these aircraft were built as Gazelle AH.1s, four as Gazelle HT.2s and five as HT.3s. The final Gazelle built, ZB693, was delivered to the Army Air Corps as a Gazelle AH.1.
In military service
With Royal Navy and Royal Air Force Gazelles confined to training, Army Air Corps Gazelles were the only aircraft deployed overseas in combat operations. Although designed as an observation and reconnaissance helicopter, Op CORPORATE saw the fitting of machine guns and rocket launchers, although neither were used in anger.
- Op BANNER, Northern Ireland, 1967-2007
- Op CORPORATE, Falklands, 1982
- Op GRANBY, Gulf War I, 1990-1992
- Op GRAPPLE, Balkans, 1993-2003
- Op JOINT ENDEAVOUR, Bosnia, 1996
- Op GUARDIAN, Kosovo, 1999
- OP BARRAS, Sierra Leone, 2000
- Op FINGAL, Afghanistan, 2002
- Op TELIC, Iraq, 2003-2008
- Op HERRICK, Afghanistan, 2006-2014