The AS 532 Horizon system was operational with the French Army. The helicopter surveillance system was originally developed to counter any possible threat by the tank fleets of the Warsaw Pact countries. The end of the Cold War and the uncertainty of the timing and scope of new military threats brought emphasis to the importance of command, control, communications and intelligence (C3I) and the role of the heliborne surveillance radar.
The four French Army Horizon helicopters were retired in May 2008. The Army stated high maintenance costs and the use of UAVs to perform many of the helicopter’s roles.
The French Ministry of Defence awarded a development contract to Eurocopter in 1992, initially for two and then four AS 532 UL Horizon systems. Eurocopter is a subsidiary of EADS (European Aeronautics Defence and Space) company, formed by DaimlerChrysler Aerospace of Germany, Aerospatiale Matra of France and CASA of Spain.
AS 532 Horizon battlefield surveillance system
The Horizon system includes a Cougar AS 532 UL twin-engine helicopter with radar and electronic countermeasures and a ground station. The first flight of the Horizon Cougar helicopter with the full radar system took place in late 1992.
The first AS 532 Horizon was delivered to the French Army in July 1996 and the complete Horizon system of four aircraft and two ground stations entered service in March 2002. Five Cougar helicopters deployed by the Royal Netherlands Air Force in Southern Afghanistan were replaced with CH-47 Chinooks in May 2010. The Chinook transports passenger troops, artillery, ammunition, fuel, water, barrier materials, supplies and equipment.
In May 2010, 14 AS532 Cougar helicopters deployed at the Gilze-Rijen Air Force Base, were removed from operations to cut costs. The move was part of the strategy to reduce defence expenditure by 1bn in the following four years. All 17 Cougars with the Royal Netherlands Air Force will retire from service and be replaced with six CH-47F Chinooks and 20 NH90s. The third DC-10 will not enter service.
AS532 Cougar helicopter variants
The AS532 Cougar has three variants, namely AS532 UL/AL, AS532 SC and AS535.
AS532 UL/AL is an extended unarmed version designed to carry either 29 troops or six injured passengers on stretchers. The AS532 AL is an armed variant equipped with 20mm cannons, 68mm rocket-launchers and rapid fire machine guns.
The AS532SC is a naval version principally used to execute anti-surface unit warfare (ASUW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), search-and-rescue and coastal patrolling missions. The variant is installed with AM 39 Exocet missiles, sonar and torpedoes.
The AS535 is a combat search-and-rescue model, deployed by the French Army.
The AS 532 UL Cougar helicopter is unarmed.
The helicopter is equipped with a long-range, multi-mode retractable pulse Doppler radar. A rotating antenna is carried beneath the fuselage. The radar range is 200km, with the helicopter operating at an altitude of 4,000m and a cruise speed of 180km/h.
The radar scans a ground area of 20,000km over a depth of 200km in ten seconds, and the data is then transmitted to a ground station. For moving targets the radar provides a speed resolution of the target of 2m per second.
The cockpit is night-vision goggle compatible. A weather radar is fitted. The helicopter communications systems are encrypted. The navigation equipment includes a Decca navigator and flight log with an SFIM model 155 autopilot, inertial navigation and global positioning system (GPS). Standard equipment includes a VHF omni-directional radio range equipment (VOR), instrument landing system (ILS), radar altimeter and a GPS.
The AS 532 UL Cougar helicopter is equipped with two Turbomeca Makila 1A1 turboshaft engines, each producing 1,185kW of output power. The maximum continuous take-off power of the engine is 1,357kW.
Six flexible fuel tanks with a capacity of 2,020l are self-sealing in the event of leakage following a crash or being pierced by projectiles.
The length and diameter of the engine are 1.83m and 0.49m respectively. The dry weight is 278kg. The time between overhaul of the engine is 3,000 hours.
The AS 532 Cougar can climb at the rate of 7.2m/s. The maximum and cruise speeds are 278km/h and 258km/h respectively. The range is 776km and the service ceiling is 3,450m. The aircraft can fly for a maximum of four hours and 20 minutes. It weighs around 4,610kg and its maximum take-off weight is 9,000kg.