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The Aerospatiale Gazelle is a light single engine helicopter that was originally developed for the French Army as a replacement for the Alouette III. Since its first flight in 1967, over 1,700 have been built and the type has seen service in variety roles from light transport to battlefield scout to attack helicopter and as a trainer. The Gazelle has seen combat in numerous conflicts and was flown by both sides in the first Gulf War. The Gazelle is still in service with 23 nations today however it is slowly being replaced by newer types in specialised roles such as attack helicopter.
The UK originally intended to operate a fleet of 250 Gazelles however by the end of 1975 there 310 on order which was a testament to the versatility of this light helicopter. The Gazelle was operated by all three services in a variety of different roles however the majority saw service with the Army Air Corps. Army Gazelles have served in the Northern Ireland troubles, both Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, Kosovo and the Falkland Islands conflict. Since 2009 only the Army Air Corps have operated the Gazelle and it was announced in 2016 that the type would remain in service until 2025 allowing it pass 50 years in UK service and become the longest serving helicopter in British military service. However, in January 2022 it was announced that the fleet would be retired by March 2024 and replaced by the Airbus Helicopters H135, already operated by the RAF as the Juno.
Whilst the Army own and operate the UK Gazelle AH1 fleet, they are all under the command of Joint Helicopter Command (JHC). The JHC combines all the battlefield helicopters of the Army Air Corps, Royal Navy and RAF under a single military command structure centralised around the Army. The JHC will be sending a pair of Gazelles to appear in this year's Air Tattoo, this will be the final time a Gazelle appears at RIAT in UK military service.