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 the 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 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 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. Airbus Helicopters will guarantee a high level of availability through an innovative maintenance contract. Airbus Helicopters commits to 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 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 the 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.
The Airbus Helicopters H160 (formerly X4) is a medium utility helicopter being developed by Airbus Helicopters. Formally launched at Heli-Expo in Orlando, Florida on 3 March 2015, it is intended to replace the AS365 and EC155 models in the firm’s lineup. In June 2015, the first test flight took place. The Airbus Helicopters H160 takes advantage of several advanced manufacturing technologies and materials 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; according to Airbus, the elimination of hydraulic components makes the rotorcraft both lighter and safer. In 2015, Airbus claimed that the all-composite H160 would deliver the same basic performance as the rival AgustaWestland AW139 while being a ton lighter, having a lower fuel consumption, and offering 15–20% lower direct operating costs.