France has selected Airbus's H160M for its Light Joint Helicopter programme (HIL).
The French Armament General Directorate (DGA) signed a contract with Airbus Helicopters for the development of several prototypes and delivery of the first batch of 30 aircraft (21 for the army, eight for the navy and one for the air force.
The French Ministry for the Armed Forces will order a total of 169 H160M helicopters, or Guépard as it will be known by the French armed forces. Deliveries will commence in 2027, starting with the French Army.
“The Guépard is the result of 10 years of close cooperation with the DGA and the French armed forces,” said Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters. “The H160M will bring new capabilities to the armed forces as it is adapted to modern warfare thanks to its increased connectivity, manoeuvrability, low acoustic footprint, and a fully integrated support system. Having the French armed forces, a world reference, as our launch customer for the H160M is extremely valuable.”
The first of a new generation of helicopters, the H160M is derived from the EASA-certified H160. The H160 is a modular helicopter, enabling its military version, with a single platform, to perform missions ranging from commando infiltration to air intercept, fire support, and anti-ship warfare.
To ensure a high level of availability while reducing operating costs, Airbus said the H160M’s support and services needs were taken into account from early in its design phase.
Airbus Helicopters commits to an innovative management of maintenance and aircraft availability through a dedicated organization that has proven to be successful. This organization was introduced with the global support contract signed in 2020 for the French Cougar and Caracal fleet, which it said had led to a significant increase in aircraft availability.
Trials conducted in the Moroccan desert in July 2021 demonstrated the efficiency of the H160’s inlet barrier filtration system in protecting the Safran Arrano engines against sand ingestion.
Airbus said the tests in the desert also demonstrated the efficiency of the automatic flight control system during takeoff and landing operations with limited visibility due to sand clouds.
The military version of the H160 will be more discreet than previous helicopters with a reduced acoustic signature made possible by the Blue Edge blades.
The H160’s stability, manoeuvrability, and an automatic flight control system will be key assets for the military version. The H160M will be equipped with Airbus Helicopters’ HForce weapon system, a modular and incremental solution that enables the use of a large choice of weapons. Equipment will also include a hoist and a fast roping arm.
The H160M Guépard will be equipped with the Safran Euroflir 410 electro-optical system, the Thales FlytX cockpit avionics suite, and AirMaster C radar.
Plots will be able to use the Thales TopOwl Helmet-mounted Sight & Display. The Guépard will also carry a self-protection suite, a satellite communication system and tactical data link system. The weapons package will include the MBDA ANL anti-ship missile, pod-mounted and door-mounted guns.