The ten year H160 contract represents a milestone in the French Ministry of Defense procurement process as it is the first time that a contract includes both hire and purchase of a brand new aircraft as well as its through life support.
The contract enables the French Navy to lease new helicopters from Babcock while the French procurement agency DGA will benefit from the experience gained in preparing for the arrival of the H160M. The H160M is the military variant of the helicopter which will equipped all three services (army, air force and navy).
In partnership with Airbus Helicopters and Safran Helicopter Engines, Babcock is set to deliver to the French Navy these six H160 helicopters modified for SAR roles. The first one is scheduled to arrive at Hyères naval air base in September 2022. The modifications include the installation of a console coupled with Safran’s new generation “Euroflir 410S” EO/IR system, the integration of watertight “diver” tank as well as a medical as well as a medical wall to EMS standards.
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 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).