The Franco-German School (L’École Franco-Allemande, EFA) in Cannet des Maures, which trains Tiger crews from both nations, was created as part of an ambitious joint project backed by a strong commitment from Airbus Helicopters (Eurocopter at the time). And now, 20 years after it was founded, there is no doubt about its success in both human and operational terms.

 

“It was an honour for me to be the first Head of the EFA,” recalls Alain Salendre, who joined Airbus Helicopters after leaving the military in 2006. “Everything had to be built from scratch and our management put all their trust in us. We were able to do what we thought was best for both countries, and it was an intense experience for everyone involved.” Aside from the arrival of the first aircraft and simulators, which were highly advanced for their time, Alain Salendre insists: “The EFA is above all a human success story. It’s a project that has brought two cultures and two populations closer together. The school has been very well received by the local community and authorities, and our German partners have had no trouble integrating.” Driven by this Franco-German determination, military cooperation has also been a complete success. Discussions have been, and still are, ongoing and sincere, with a view to furthering integration.

Training excellence proven time and again

Twenty years on, the EFA has matured. The excellence of its training has been proven time and again on battlefields from Afghanistan to Africa, where the Tigers have consistently shown their technological superiority, firepower and tactical impact. So much so, that no operation conducted jointly with ground troops is conceivable today without a detachment of combat helicopters. The EFA currently has seven French HAD Tigers and as many German KHT Tigers. Its cruising speed enables it to train around 80 people each year: pilots, captains and patrol leaders, as well as Flight Crew Simulator Instructors (FSIs). For maintenance personnel, type training takes place at the Franco-German Centre for Technical Logistics Personnel in Fassberg (Germany). So, “in this unique place and environment, French instructors train French crews while their German counterparts do the same for their crews,” explains the school’s current Chef de Corps, Lieutenant Colonel Olivier Mallet. This makes a lot of sense, given that “the HAD and KHT mission equipment differs. 

That said, the areas where pooling is applied on a day-to-day basis are extremely vast.” For example, since 2021, all ‘pilot’ synthetic flights have been taken in Franco-German patrols. The same applies to patrol leaders, for whom diversity and cooperation are demonstrated in the simulator, by bringing complementary HAD and KHT patrols together in the same tactical scenario. “For the past two years, we have been qualifying all our trainees to shoot at the Canjuers camp during bi-national shooting campaigns,” adds Lieutenant Colonel Mallet. To complete this picture of cooperation, witness the latest example of synergies put in place, namely the activation of computer-assisted courses given in English for trainees from both nations. If figures are anything to go by, the EFA Tiger has passed the symbolic milestone of one thousand people trained, and “day-to-day life is undeniably 100% Franco-German synergy,” concludes Lieutenant Colonel Mallet.

 

Two Tigers conduct firing exercises

Industry has played its part

The Tiger programme has played an essential role not only in the creation of Eurocopter, but also in structuring cooperation between the German and French armed forces. “Over and above the contractual terms, we benefited from Eurocopter’s proactive and effective presence with us,” recalls Alain Salendre. “On-site technical assistance helped us a great deal during the ramp-up phase, and we had direct access to the Design Office whenever we had technical queries. Eurocopter was genuinely determined to make this cooperation a success.”

Two Tigers silhouetted at dusk

 

*This article was originally written by Alexandre Merchand for Rotor Magazine.

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Airbus Helicopters' customer magazine dedicated to the rotorcraft industry.