Airbus Guépard Will Enter French Army Service from 2027
The French government has contracted Airbus Helicopters to develop and produce the H160M to satisfy the nation’s Joint Light Helicopter (HIL) programme, the company confirmed on 22 December.
The contract includes development of several prototypes and delivery of a first batch of 30 aircraft (21 for the army, 8 for the navy and one for the air force), against an MoD intention to procure a total of 169 H160M Guépard helicopters – deliveries to begin with the Army from 2027. “The Guépard is the result of ten years of close cooperation with the DGA and the French armed forces,” explained 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. It benefits from a low cost of operations and optimised flight safety. The H160 was designed to be a modular helicopter, enabling its military version to undertake missions ranging from commando infiltration to air intercept, fire support, and anti-ship warfare with a single platform, 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 service 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. The company commits to an innovative management of maintenance and aircraft availability through a dedicated organisation 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 Morocco earlier this year demonstrated the efficiency of the H160’s inlet barrier filtration system in protecting the Safran Arrano engines against sand ingestion. The desert testing also demonstrated the efficiency of the automatic flight control system during take-off and landing operations with limited visibility due to sand clouds. The H160M will be ready to operate in the toughest 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, 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, incremental solution, enabling the use of a large selection 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.