As previously reported, an initial contract for four interim H160 was awarded to Airbus Helicopters, Babcock, and Safran Helicopter Engines on January 31, 2020. An option for two more helicopters was signed in May 2021.
The French Navy will start operating these helicopters in 2022 for a period of ten years. The six H160s will be delivered in a Search and Rescue (SAR) configuration and will gradually start operating from May 2022 from Lanveoc-Poulmic naval air station (Britany), Cherbourg airport (Normandy) and Hyères naval air station (Provence). Awaiting the H160M “Guépard” deliveries in the frame of the French Joint Light Helicopter (Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger: HIL) programme, these H160s will take over the SAR missions currently conducted by the NH90s and Panthers, allowing these combat helicopters to fulfill their main tasks at sea on board combat vessels.
The selection of the Euroflir™410 optronic (electro-optical) system for the interim fleet was announced by Safran in September 2020.
The French Navy’s operational feedback with these H160s will benefit the design of the military version of the aircraft and its associated support system. The French MoD placed an order for 169 H160Ms in December 2021 as part of the Joint Light Helicopter programme (Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger: HIL) 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).