Update: France orders H160M helos for armed forces

by Gareth Jennings

France has ordered 169 H160M helicopters to equip all three branches of the country's armed forces. (Airbus Helicopters)

France has contracted Airbus to begin production of the H160M Guépard (Cheetah) helicopter for the country's military, with an award disclosed by the Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly, on 22 December.

Airbus Helicopters is to build 169 H160Ms, plus options, for the French Air and Space Force, the French Army Light Aviation, and the French Navy from 2027, Parly announced. It was revealed separately by the European Union that the contract is valued at EUR8.6 billion (USD9.8 billion). The initial work order covers 30 helicopters, comprising 21 for the army, eight for the navy, and one for the air force.

“The Cheetah is a new helicopter. It will replace five different helicopters, some [that have been] in service for over 40 years. A concrete example of the renewal of our equipment,” Parly said. “The Cheetah will be deployed in all three armed services. It's a first. This will improve its availability and reduce maintenance costs.”

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UK scraps additional A400M buy as ‘unaffordable'

by Gareth Jennings

The RAF will not receive additional A400M airlifters, with the UK National Audit Office saying the plan is unaffordable. (Janes/Gareth Jennings)

The United Kingdom has scrapped plans to acquire additional Airbus A400M Atlas airlifters, saying it is no longer affordable.

The National Audit Office (NAO) made the disclosure in its ‘The Equipment Plan 2022 to 2032' report, published on 30 November, reversing the Ministry of Defence's (MoD's) announcement in February that it was seeking to add to the 22 aircraft already contracted.

“An option to purchase additional A400M aircraft was assessed as unaffordable. Air Command is developing an affordable choice to improve A400M availability. Some funding is held centrally,” the report said.

Although costings were not included in the equipment plan report, the NAO had previously said that the additional purchase will be valued at GBP750 million (USD899 billion). This would likely equate to eight aircraft to bring the fleet up to 30 A400Ms.

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BAE developing augmented reality for Hawk

by Gareth Jennings

The Hawk is set to receive augmented reality technology, under an MOU signed by BAE Systems and Red 6. (BAE Systems)

BAE Systems is developing augmented reality (AR) to enhance the training value of its Hawk advanced jet trainer (AJT), the company announced on 30 November.

For the project, BAE Systems has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Red 6, an AR technology firm specialising in synthetic air combat training.

“BAE Systems will collaborate with Red 6 to explore the integration of the Advanced Tactical Augmented Reality Systems (ATARS) onto the Hawk,” the announcement said. “This will enable pilots to identify, engage, and defeat virtual threats and co-operate with virtual wingmen whilst airborne.”

As said by BAE Systems, the collaboration will explore ways to combine its experience in delivering training to military forces alongside its expertise with Striker helmet-mounted displays used on Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab Gripen combat aircraft, with Red 6's ATARS technology.

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Update: Royal Australian Navy to acquire Bluebottle USVs

by Julian Kerr & Oishee Majumdar

When deployed, the solar sail of the Bluebottle (pictured) harnesses both solar and wind energy. In headwinds or winds more than 25 kt, the solar sail automatically folds onto the deck of the USV. (Ocius)

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is acquiring five Bluebottle unmanned surface vessels (USVs) to enhance its ability to experiment and advance the operational employment of uncrewed systems under, on, and above the water.

Disclosing a AUD4.9 million (USD3.3 million) contract with Sydney-based Ocius Technologies, Rear Admiral Peter Quinn, head of the Navy Capability in the RAN, said on 25 November that this represented a significant investment in sovereign industry capability to advance the ability of the RAN to effectively employ robotic and autonomous systems.

“We have vast areas that we need to patrol, which we can't do with a small number of crewed ships. We have to and will be investing in uncrewed platforms that will be out there persistently conducting surveillance,'' he said.

The 22 ft solar, wind, and wave-powered vessels would be used in developing new uncrewed underwater systems technology, and as testbeds for above-water and low-water surveillance, he said.

Ocius CEO Robert Dane told Janes

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France has contracted Airbus to begin production of the H160M Guépard (Cheetah) helicopter for the c...

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