France Orders the H160M Helicopters

France Orders the H160M Helicopters

The French Armament General Directorate (Direction Générale de l’Armement/DGA) has signed a deal with Airbus Helicopters to develop and acquire the H160M in the Light Joint Helicopter programme (HIL) framework. The contract calls for the development of multiple prototypes and the delivery of the first batch of 30 helicopters (21 for the army, eight for the navy and one for the air force). The French Ministry of Defence intends to acquire 169 H160M helicopters, or Guépard as they will be known in the French armed services. Deliveries will commence in 2027, with the French army as the first recipient.

The H160M, the first of a new generation of helicopters, is based on the EASA-certified H160. It has a reduced operational cost and improved flight safety. The H160 was meant to be a modular helicopter, allowing its military version to execute operations ranging from commando insertion to air intercept, fire support, and anti-ship warfare using a single platform to fulfil the needs of the army, navy, and air force. The H160M"s support and services requirements were considered early in the design phase to provide a high level of uptime while lowering operating expenses.

In July 2021, trials in the Moroccan desert confirmed the effectiveness of the H160"s inlet barrier filtering system in preserving the Safran Arrano engines from sand ingestion. The desert testing demonstrated the autonomous flight control system"s effectiveness during take-off and landing operations, reducing vision due to sand clouds.

Thanks to the Blue Edge blades " reduced acoustic signature, the military version of the H160 will be stealthier than earlier helicopters. The military version will rely heavily on the H160"s stability, manoeuvrability, and autonomous flight control system. The H160M will be outfitted with Airbus Helicopters" HForce weapon system. This modular and incremental solution allows for a diverse range of armaments. A hoist and a rapid roping arm will also be provided.

France Orders the H160M Helicopters

The Safran Euroflir 410 electro-optical system, the Thales FlytX cockpit avionics suite, and the AirMaster C radar will be installed aboard the H160M Guépard. The pilots will use the Thales TopOwl Helmet-mounted Sight & Display. The Guépard will also be equipped with a self-defence suite, a satellite communication system, and a tactical data link system. The MBDA ANL anti-ship missile and pod-mounted and door-mounted guns will be included in the weapon package.

The French Army has not declared the potential deployment region of helicopters. However, it will not be a surprise to see them on French bases in Africa. It can be suggested that those helicopters would set an example for African countries with low budgets as potential export markets.