Airbus Helicopters and the French Directorate-General for Armaments (DGA) are pursuing a new set of studies to advance the militarization of the H160 helicopter, and to define its support system in the framework of the Joint Light Helicopter program (Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger: HIL). This contract launches pre-development activities for the military version of the H160, also called the Guépard (Cheetah) by the French armed forces, in order to meet the delivery schedule that was brought forward in May 2019 by the French Minister of Armed Forces, Florence Parly. It will be used by all three branches of the French Armed Forces replacing the Gazelle, Panther, Dauphin, Lynx, Alouette III, and Fennec fleets. The Navy, the Air Force, and the Army will operate a common platform, only equipment and weapons will be adapted to each branches’ specific needs. In total France should order 169 H160Ms including 80 for the army, 49 for the navy, and 40 for the air Force.
Airbus Helicopters, Safran Helicopter Engines, and the DGA will work closely together in order to maximize the availability rate of the helicopters, as well as optimizing the cost of supporting the fleet. Under the pre-development contract Airbus Helicopters and Safran Helicopter Engines will specifically work on the H160M avionics, sensors, and cargo area accommodations according to the French ministry of the Armed Forces. Airbus Helicopters and Safran Helicopters will also work on the Guépard’s navalisation. Studies are being conducted in parallel on the H160M future maintenance plan. The H160M also work on integrating self-protection equipment and a weapons suite including the Sea Venom anti-ship missile, pod mounted and door machine guns. The militarised version of the H160 will also feature deflectors on the engine air outtakes to reduce the helicopter’s thermic signature.
The Airbus Helicopters H160M Guépard (Cheetah is a military version of the H160 medium utility helicopter being developed by Airbus Helicopters. Presented to the public in June 2019 during the Paris Air Show, it is scheduled to enter service in 2026. The Airbus Helicopters H160 takes advantage of several advanced manufacturing technologies and materials in order to produce a lighter, more efficient design. One weight-saving measure was the replacement of conventional hydraulic landing gear and brakes with electrical counterparts, the first helicopter in the world to do so; the elimination of hydraulic components makes the rotorcraft both lighter and safer. The H160 is the first rotorcraft to feature the Blue Edge five-bladed main rotor. This incorporates a double-swept shape that reduces the noise generation of blade-vortex interactions (BVI), a phenomenon which occurs when the blade impacts a vortex created at its tip.