Naval Warfare

French Navy Receives Final Batch of H160 Medium Utility Helicopters

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French Navy Receives Final Batch of H160 Medium Utility Helicopters

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French Navy Receives Final Batch of H160 Medium Utility Helicopters
French Navy Receives Final Batch of H160 Medium Utility Helicopters

The Directorate General of Armaments (DGA, Direction générale de l’armement) recently completed the delivery of the final H160 medium utility helicopter from an order placed in 2020 and 2021. This delivery marks the culmination of efforts by Airbus Helicopters, Babcock France, and Safran Helicopter Engines, with the aircraft now stationed at the Lanvéoc-Poulmic naval aeronautical base. The introduction of these H160 helicopters is a strategic move to bolster Maritime Rescue (Secmar) alert missions, effectively replacing older models like the Caïman Marine, Dauphin, and Panther helicopters. By deploying the H160s for rescue operations, the French Navy can redirect other assets to focus on their primary role of aero-maritime combat aboard naval vessels.

These helicopters, specially configured for sea rescue, have been gradually integrated into service since 2023 at various naval bases. Initial feedback from over 1,500 flight hours and numerous rescue missions has been overwhelmingly positive, underscoring their effectiveness in fulfilling critical missions. This feedback is instrumental in refining the military variant of the H160, known as the H160M “Guépard,” as part of the Light Joint Helicopter (HIL) program overseen by the DGA. The collaboration between Airbus Helicopters, Babcock France, and Safran Helicopter Engines ensures a robust partnership aimed at maintaining high aircraft availability—a prerequisite for sustained sea rescue operations along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, as well as the English Channel.

French Navy H160 Medium Utility Helicopters.
French Navy H160 Medium Utility Helicopters. (Photo by DGA)

The Airbus Helicopters H160, formerly designated as the X4, represents a leap forward in medium utility helicopter technology. Launched at Heli-Expo in 2015, it is slated to replace previous models in Airbus Helicopters’ lineup, offering advanced capabilities and enhanced performance. Equipped with state-of-the-art features such as a winch, the Euroflir 410 optronic system from Safran Electronics & Defense, and modular cabins for mission versatility, the H160s are tailored for maritime operations. Additionally, they are certified for night missions with night vision binoculars, further enhancing their operational flexibility. With a focus on reliability, the aircraft features redundant systems to mitigate the impact of potential failures, ensuring operational resilience in challenging environments.

The H160’s design incorporates advanced manufacturing technologies and materials to achieve a lighter, more efficient airframe. Innovative measures such as replacing hydraulic components with electrical counterparts contribute to weight reduction and safety improvements. Airbus claims that the H160 offers comparable performance to rival models while being lighter, with lower fuel consumption and operating costs. A key innovation of the H160 is its Blue Edge five-bladed main rotor, designed to minimize noise generation during flight. Aerodynamic enhancements like the biplane tailplane stabilizer and canted fenestron tail rotor further optimize performance, providing greater stability and lift capacity. Powered by two Turbomeca Arrano turboshaft engines, the H160 ensures reliable propulsion for demanding missions.

French Navy H160 Medium Utility Helicopters.
French Navy H160 Medium Utility Helicopters. (Photo by DGA)

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