The German government has given the green light for the deployment of the Eurocopter EC665 Tiger attack helicopter to Afghanistan.

The deployment will see four Tigers transported to Mazar-e-Sharif in the north of the country. From there the aircraft will be used to deliver fire support to ground troops, conduct convoy protection and provide an escort capability for transport helicopters such as the Sikorsky CH-53Gs being used by the German forces in the region.

Full operational capability for the Tigers is due to be established in February 2013.

The decision follows the arrival of the first batch of four Afghanistan Stabilization German Army Rapid Deployment - Full (ASGARD-F) equipped Tigers to the German army in August. These aircraft have been retrofitted by Eurocopter with sand filters, a mission recorder and a new radio set to improve interoperability with coalition forces in the region. Two of the aircraft will be available for operations while the other two will be held in reserve.

Tiger crews have been training in readiness for the deployment. Earlier this year, two Tigers, in a downgraded ASGARD-T configuration (T for Training) were deployed to Holloman AFB, N.M., as part of Exercise Falcor 2012. The exercise gave aircrews a chance to operate the aircraft in hot, high and dusty conditions and conduct live firing in readiness for the deployment.

Once in Afghanistan, the Tigers will be armed with a pod-mounted gun, unguided rockets and the MBDA-made HOT-guided missile.

A deployment of four NHIndustries NH90s for personnel recovery and medevac missions will follow in the spring of 2013. These aircraft will replace U.S. Army Sikorsky HH-60 Black Hawks currently operating in the region. Four NH90s will be deployed, again with two operational and two in a technical reserve status. Typical missions will see a single NH90 in a medevac configuration with the second acting as an armed escort.

Germany will be the second country to deploy the Tiger to the Afghan theater of operations. France deployed its Tigers in 2009 and the aircraft have since completed about 3,000 operational flight hours. Unlike the German aircraft, the French Tigers are not fitted with a guided weapon and so they have primarily used their 30mm cannon for engagements, or called in HOT-missile-carrying Aerospatiale SA342 Gazelles to deal with more critical targets. The French Tigers are expected to depart Afghanistan in the coming weeks as part of the announced withdrawal of French combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012.