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.
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.
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“…
Click on an image below to page or swipe through the gallery: