The French Armament General Directorate (DGA) has signed a contract with Airbus Helicopters for the development and procurement of the H160M in the frame of the Light Joint Helicopter program (HIL). The contract includes the development of several prototypes and the delivery of a first batch of 30 aircraft (21 for the army, 8 for the navy and one for the air force). The French Ministry for the Armed Forces plans to order a total of 169 H160M helicopters, or Guépard as it will be known in the French armed forces. Deliveries will start in 2027 beginning with the French Army.
The first of a new generation of helicopters, the H160M (photo) is derived from the EASA-certified H160. It benefits from a low cost of operations and optimized flight safety. The H160 was designed to be 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 in order to meet the needs of the army, the navy and the air force. To ensure a high level of availability while reducing operating costs, the H160M’s support and services needs were taken into account from early in its design phase. Innovative and simplified, the H160M’s support is based on the exploitation of data through analytics.
Airbus Helicopters will guarantee a high level of availability through an innovative maintenance contract. 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 and has 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. The tests in the desert also demonstrated the efficiency of the automatic flight control system during the takeoff and landing operations with limited visibility due to sand clouds. The H160M will be ready to operate in the roughest conditions.
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, maneuverability, 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 enabling 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. The pilots 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 weapon package will include the MBDA ANL anti-ship missile, pod mounted and door mounted guns.
Meanwhile, the Spanish Ministries of Defense and Interior have ordered 36 Airbus H135 helicopters. This signature takes place in the context of the stimulus plan activated by the Spanish government to support the industry. The Ministry of Defense will receive 18 helicopters to be operated by the air force and the navy while the Ministry of Interior will also take delivery of 18 helicopters to be operated by the National Police and the Guardia Civil. The deliveries will start next year.
The Spanish Army already operates a fleet of 16 H135 helicopters. With this acquisition, these will be the Spanish Air Force’s first H135s and the Spanish Navy’s first Airbus Helicopters product. As was the case for the H135s acquired some time ago by the army, the new aircraft for the air force and navy will replace older helicopter models currently used for advanced pilot training.
The Ministry of Interior currently has a fleet of 31 helicopters from the H135 family in operation with the National Police, the Guardia Civil, and Tráfico. The new helicopters will enable the Policía and Guardia Civil to replace the BO105 helicopters in a wide range of missions including law enforcement, surveillance, and rescue activities.
Airbus’ light, twin-engine H135 is equipped with the most advanced technologies available, including Airbus Helicopters’ own Helionix avionics suite. There are about 1,350 H135 helicopters operated by 300 operators in 64 countries. The fleet has accumulated 6 million flight hours.