The French Navy has ordered an interim fleet of four Airbus Helicopters H160 rotorcraft for search-and-rescue (SAR) operations, the manufacturer announced on 10 February.
The French Armament General Directorate (DGA) is to supply four civil-variant H160s to the French Navy to bridge the gap between the impending retirement of the Aerospatiale SA316B Alouette III helicopters and the arrival of the military-variant H160M Guépard.
As noted in the announcement, these helicopters will be supported through a partnership between Airbus Helicopters, Babcock, and Safran Helicopter Engines. The French Navy will start operating these helicopters in 2022 for a period of 10 years.
The H160 was first launched at the Heli-Expo show in Florida in 2015. Formerly designated the X4, 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 SAR). 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.
Want to read more? For analysis on this article and access to Jane’s unrivalled data and insight, learn more about our subscription options at janes.com/products