SA.341F & SA.342M Gazelle: Light Hunter
The Gazelle is a family of light French helicopters developed in the late 1960s by the Sud-Aviation company, whose newer modifications are still being used today. The Gazelles will form the backbone of the French helicopter tree, coming to War Thunder with update 1.87!
Briefly: Small, light multipurpose helicopters, offering excellent speed and maneuverability coupled with deadly armament options.
Development of the Gazelle began in 1966, after the French Army issued a set of requirements for a new helicopter to replace the Alouette II. Sud-Aviation (later Aérospatiale) began working on the project immediately and came up with a prototype within a year. The prototype, designated SA.340, conducted its maiden flight in April 1967 with success.
Further development of the helicopter continued, with the subsequent model - the SA.341 - receiving several improvements. Among them was the replacement of the conventional tail rotor with a fenestron tail, which integrated the tail rotor into the tail section. At this stage of development, the British Westland Helicopters company also became involved as the work turned into a joint project between the two companies, following an agreement signed in 1967.
Production of the SA.341 began in the late 1960s, with slightly differing models being produced for French and British armed forces. The first models entered service in the early 1970s. The helicopter would prove itself to be quite a success, which prompted further development to be pursued.
Further development of the Gazelle eventually resulted in the creation of the SA.342 - a more powerful modification fitted with an uprated engine. This modification also turned the Gazelle into a light tank hunter, being able to be fitted with HOT ATGMs.
The Gazelle also turned out be just as much of a success on the export market as it was with its initial operators. The helicopter type was widely exported to countries around the world and was even produced under licence by Egypt and Yugoslavia.
Although the Gazelle has long been replaced by newer helicopters, such as the Eurocopter Tiger for example, the type is still in active service with numerous nations today, including Great Britain and France. In total, over 1,750 Gazelles have been manufactured by 1996, taking into account all variants. These vehicles have been involved in many fighting conflicts, and are now used in Syria for Syrian army operations.
In War Thunder, the Gazelle helicopters will form the backbone of the French helicopter tree, coming to the game with the release of the upcoming update 1.87. We have plans to introduce two variants of the Gazelle helicopter, the SA.341F - the standard French Army model, and the SA.342M - a later modification of the Gazelle capable of mounting second generation anti-tank missiles.
The SA.341F is the base model of the Gazelle used by the French Army. It’s powered by a Astazou IIIN turboshaft engine, generating 600 horsepower. In turn, this power allows the SA.314F to reach a maximum top speed of 310 km/h, whilst maintaining excellent maneuverability at both high and low speeds.
The armament of the SA.341F certainly offers a great variety to its pilots, featuring different weapons on either side of the fuselage. The main armament consists of a 20mm GIAT M621 cannon, found on the right side of the fuselage. Secondary weapons are mounted on the left side of the fuselage and range from seven unguided rockets, over two guided HOT ATGMs and go up to two Mistral air-to-air missiles.
Fun Fact: The SA.341 was the first helicopter in the world to feature a fenestron-type tail. This innovation gave the helicopter excellent speed and maneuverability, allowing it to break two world speed records simultaneously in May 1967.
The SA.342M represents a further developed modification of the Gazelle. Unlike the SA.341F that precedes it, the SA.342M is fitted with a more powerful Astazou XIV turboshaft engine, generating 870 horsepower. While this change didn’t notably affect the vehicle’s speed, it did allow for further modifications to be made, most notably when firepower is concerned.
Contrary to the SA.341F, the SA.342M loses access to the 20mm cannon and instead, offers a unified weapon loadout for both sides of the fuselage. As a result, the SA.342M can carry all of the secondary weapons found on its predecessor, but twice as many as, thanks to the removal of the 20mm cannon on the right side of the fuselage. However, this also means that the SA.342M will have a harder time defending itself from attackers due to the lack of conventional forward-facing weapons.
The Gazelles are already well on their way to player hangars and are scheduled to arrive to the game with the release of the French helicopter tree, coming with War Thunder update 1.87. In the meantime, make sure to stay tuned to the news for more information regarding the next major update coming to the game. Until then, safe flying pilots!
IAR 316B Pack is now available to pre-order!
- IAR 316B (Rank 5 France) - available after 1.87 update;
- 2000 Golden Eagles;
- Premium account for 15 days;
- Pre-order bonus: tricolor camouflage - available after 1.87 update;
- Pre-order bonus: unique "Skylark" title.
- Pre-order - IAR 316B Pack;
- AMX-30 Pack.
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