This contract launches pre-development activities for the military version of the H160, dubbed “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.
The new set of studies will also focus on defining the optimal set-up for supporting the tri-service H160M fleet: 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.
“Launching this collaborative work between Industry and the Ministry of the Armed Forces in order to define the support framework for the Guépard and the associated processes, as early as the pre-development phase, is essential. The output will provide us with all the levers necessary to ensure a high level of availability at the H160M’s entry into service in the French armed forces,” said Alexandra Cros, Vice President and Head of Governmental Affairs France at Airbus Helicopters. “The studies build upon the work and commitments taken recently in the global support contracts for the Cougar, Caracal, and Tiger fleets of the French armed forces”.
About H160M HIL Guepard Helicopter
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 interception, fire support, and anti surface warfare in order to meet the needs of the army, the navy and the air force through the HIL programme. Bringing the launch of the HIL programme forward to 2021 will enable first deliveries to the French armed forces in 2026.
The HIL Guépard is a 6 tons class helicopter capable of speeds of 160 knots. It can carry 12 passengers at distances of up to 120 nautical miles. According to Airbus Helicopters, the H160 features the noise-reducing and performance-enhancing “Blue Edge” main rotor designed to increase the lift capacity by 100 kg and lower noise signature by 50% (3 dB).
The French MoD HIL program calls for the procurement of 169 Guépard helicopters for the French Army, Air Force and Navy. It is set to replace 5 types of helicopters currently in services with the 3 French military services: the Gazelle of the army (Armée de terre), the Fennec of the air force (Armée de l’air) and the Alouette III, Dauphin and Panther of the French Navy (Marine nationale).
The French Navy’s Alouette III choppers are gradually withdrawn from the operational service. An interim fleet of helicopters has just been ordered to ensure missions continuity, pending deliveries by the Cheetahs.
On December 31, 2019, the DMAé signed a 10-years 407 Mio€ contract with Heli-Union and DCI for the rental and support of 12 Dauphin N3/N3+ helicopters. The first units will be delivered at the end of the year after having been modified to allow them to operate from French Navy ships.
On January 31, 2020, the DGA awarded a contract for four new H160s for hire-purchase to Airbus Helicopters, Babcock and Safran Helicopters Engines. Used for search and rescue missions in the Atlantic and the Channel, the rotorcraft will be operational starting 2022 for a 10-years period. This fleet of H160s will thus make it possible to acquire, for the benefit of the HIL Guépard program, feedback on the use of helicopters and their support.