Airbus Helicopters showcased a mock-up of the H160M that it has developed for the French armed forces' Joint Light Helicopter (Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger: HIL) programme on 27 May.
The full-scale model was revealed during an event at the company's Marignane production facility. During this event French defence secretary Florence Parly announced that the formal launch of the HIL programme, which will see 169 helicopters delivered to the country's three armed forces, has been brought forward from 2022 to 2021. This earlier start to the programme will see the first helicopters delivered in 2026.
Under the HIL programme, the H160M will replace all helicopter types in the French military except for the NHIndustries NH90, Airbus Helicopters Tiger, and Airbus Helicopters H225M Caracal. The army will be the largest customer with 80, with the navy getting 49 and the air force 40.
Dubbed Guépard (Cheetah), the H160M is derived from the civil variant of the helicopter that was developed from the X4 and first launched at the Heli-Expo show in Florida in 2015. The H160 is billed as a 160 kt-capable helicopter that can carry 12 passengers at distances of up to 120 n miles (222 km) (or a 450 n mile range with 20-minute reserve for tasks such as search and rescue). Development of the helicopter began in 2013 and the configuration was finalised in 2015.
According to Airbus, the H160 is set apart from other helicopters by cutting-edge technologies. These include the noise-reducing and performance-enhancing Blue Edge main rotors designed to cut the noise signature by 50% (3 dB) and increase the lift capacity by 100 kg compared with conventional blades. The main rotor assembly is centred on the Spheriflex bearingless main rotor hub, which reduces weight and increases damage tolerance.
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