THROUGH THE LENS: French Army – 3 RHC  ‘The Regiment of the Night’

 French Army – 3 RHC ‘The Regiment of the Night’

Report and photos by Danny Reijnen

September 18, 2017

The French Army (Armée de terre) has three combat helicopter regiments, comprising 1RHC at Phalsbourg-Bourscheid, 3 RHC at Étain-Rouvres and 5 RHC at Pau-Pyrénées.

The 3rd Combat Helicopter Regiment (3 RHC) (3e Régiment d’Hélicoptères de Combat) (3e RHC) of Étain, Meuse, France belongs to the Light Army Aviation (ALAT).

The 3rd RHC is nicknamed “The Regiment of the Night” and “Grand 3”. Their motto is “semper ad alta” (Always higher).

The 3rd RHC is located in a little urbanized area with varied landscapes. It has an ideal training zone, particularly adapted to the different types of flight: high or very low altitude, stationary or high speed, navigation or combat, day and night, with one or more helicopters on patrol.

The 3rd RHC extends its 500 hectares on 4 communes of Meuse: Etain, Rouvres, Amel-sur-l’Etang and Eton. The base is located 25km east of Verdun, 50km west of Metz, 50km south of Belgium and Luxembourg.

MISSION

ALAT helicopters are essential for both domestic missions (OPINT) and OPEX (theaters of external operations). The 3rd RHC intervenes wherever it is needed, in liaison with the ground troops, in numerous missions such as: support, recognize , destroy, transport, evacuate, and rescue.

UNITS

The 3rd RHC consists of :

  • 3 reconnaissance and attack helicopter squadrons (EHRA 1, 2 and 3)
  • 1 light helicopter maintenance squadron (EMHL)
  • Battalion of Maneuver and Assault Helicopters (BHMA)
  • 2 squadrons of transport helicopters (EHM 1 and 2)
  • 1 helicopter maintenance squadron of transport helicopters (EMHM)

As mentioned above, 3 RHC has five flight squadrons at its disposal, consisting  of three attack and reconnaissance helicopter squadrons equipped with SA342 Gazelles and two tactical helicopter squadrons equipped with the SA330 Puma.

According to the French Army,

The 3rd RHC has about:

  • 32 Gazelle: a reconnaissance and attack helicopter capable of fighting day and night thanks to its VIVIANE thermal camera. It infiltrates the search for intelligence, acts in liaison with the troops on the ground and destroys enemy objectives.
  • 28 Puma: performs airlift missions of troops, food, equipment but also allows evacuations of wounded or nationals. It is used as an advanced command post thanks to its “PC kit” and has a capability of shooting with its gun of 20mm in port.
  • Vehicles needed for deployment: GBC180, TRM2000 and 10000, P4, fire trucks, tanks, ambulances, mobile control towers and radar, etc.

Each squadron uses between eight and ten helicopters. The French Army currently still operates some 80 Gazelles, about two-thirds of which are SA342M variants equipped with the Viviane thermal imagery system, therefore it will be able to perform either in day or nighttime.

Around 2021 3 RHC will become the final French Army regiment to receive the NH90. The Pumas will then be retired.

The Gazelle will remain in service until around 2030 when the, to be selected, Joint Light Helicopter will replace it.

Now we take a look at the French Army’s 3 RHC, “THROUGH THE LENS“…

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Danny Reijnen on Email
Danny Reijnen
Photojournalist at Aviation Photography Digest

Danny Reijnen was born in Nijmegen, the Netherlands and currently resides in Almere in the Middle of the Netherlands with his girlfriend Susan and 4 kids.


Danny currently works for the Ministry of Defence at Schiphol Airport. His passion towards military aviation started when he was 7 years old. His dad took him to Volkel airbase. There he saw a lot of F-16s flying and he got hooked. He has been active in aviation photography since 1993.


When he first began, he was using an analog film camera. After awhile he got his first digital Konica Minolta 7D. After a couple of years the camera needed to be replaced and he bought a Sony A700. In 2015, he purchased a Sony A77 while continuing to use A700 as a secondary camera.


Despite of having a busy job, and being interested in taking photographs, Danny recently started to put his talent to use as a photojournalist in military aviation.


Danny can be reached at: [email protected]


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