Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Army Tiger choppers may see action in Afghanistan


AUSTRALIA'S military is preparing the way to deploy the army's lethal new Tiger helicopters to Afghanistan should the Government decide to send them into action.A team of Australian military observers has been working with a French Army unit that brought three of the armed reconnaissance helicopters to Kabul in July.

France decided to send the new helicopters to Afghanistan to provide close air support to its troops after 10 French soldiers were killed and 21 wounded in a Taliban ambush in August 2008.Australia ordered 22 of the Eurocopter aircraft and 16 have been delivered so far.

The army is keen to learn as much as possible from the French in Afghanistan in case the Government decides to deploy the helicopters.

''The Australians are taking a very close look at what's going on,'' aviation sources told The Age.At present, Australian troops in Oruzgan Province of southern Afghanistan are backed by Dutch Apache attack helicopters.But the Dutch have indicated that they will probably abandon their lead role in the province next year and the Apaches might be withdrawn.

The reconnaissance helicopters, fitted with Hellfire missiles, rockets and cannon, are ideal for patrolling ahead of road convoys that are increasingly falling victim to ambushes and roadside bombs.The aviation source said the Tigers had proved effective in Afghanistan and the Americans had asked the French to use them to support US troops on operations.

A Defence Force spokesman said last night that deployment of any military capability was a matter for the Government and the ADF did not comment on potential deployments.He said the Tiger program was progressing well but the aircraft had not yet been accepted into operational service with the army.

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