Escadrille des Operations Speciales – EOS
Within the French DAOS exists two special units of helicopters tasked with supporting France’s Special Operations soldiers. The 1st EOS is composed of 12 Puma and Cougar helicopters used to transport troops and supplies. They can be armed for self defence but often are accompanied by helicopters of the 2nd EOS, Aerospatiale Gazelle helicopters armed with 20mm cannon and Mistral missles. Operators can be inserted via fast-roping, rappelling, “grappe” ( similar to the US SPIE Rig, grappe is so named due to the resemblence to a bunch of hanging grapes ), or landing insertions, including during night time or adverse weather. EOS pilots are proficient in operations in all sorts of terrain, ranging from maritime to mountain to savannah.
The 1st EOS’s helicopters are the Eurocopter AS 532 MkI Super Puma and Cougar, a twin-engine single-rotor design that was built around survivability and strength. Both are extensively modified from the standard airframe, boasting increased armor protection, NVG -compatible cockpits, and an IR turretfor night and adverse weather flying. In addition added avionics help make the aircraft more capable; additions include missile detection systems with automatic chaff and flare launchers to decoy missiles and a system to hover the aircraft automatically during pickup. The Super Puma can carry 21commandos out to a range of 323 nautical miles ( 598 km ) at speeds up to 275 KM/H. Once there it can defend itself with two cannons, either the 7.62mm or 200mm cannon. The Cougar is the military version of the Super Puma but they are often still refered to by either name.
The 2nd EOS operates 10 SA 342M Gazelle scout helicopters, used for either scouting, fire support/CSAR defense, command and control, or as lift-ships for small two or three-man teams. They are extremely small and nimble helicopters and can be broken down quickly and shiped to a battlzone either by C-130 or C-160 Transall cargo aircraft. The Gazelle features the Fenestron system replacing a conventional tail-rotor, making htem less susecpable to damage and quieter in flight.
Selection and training for the soldiers of the EOS’s is special; only volunteers may serve and they have to pass a rigourous selection course designed to build teamwork and special operations skills.