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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Qatar receives M-346 jet trainers

by Gareth Jennings

One of three M-346 advanced jet trainer aircraft recently delivered to the Qatar Emiri Air Force under the scope of its International Flight Training School agreement with Italy was seen at a recent pilot graducation ceremony at Al Udeid Air Base. (Government of Qatar)

Qatar has received its first Leonardo M-346 Master advanced jet trainer aircraft from Italy, the manufacturer confirmed to Janes on 26 January.

The M-346s were ordered as part of an agreement for Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) training at Italy's International Flight Training School (IFTS), with the first aircraft appearing in Qatar during a student pilot graduation ceremony at Al Udeid Air Base on 26 January.

“The QEAF has ordered six aircraft as part of an agreement for the Qatari pilot training at the International Flight Training School,” Leonardo told Janes, adding, “The first three aircraft [...] are now in Qatar”.

The Italian government announced in November 2020 that QEAF pilots would be trained at the IFTS, which is operated as a joint venture by Leonardo and the Italian Air Force at Lecce-Galatina and Decimomannu Air Base in Sardinia.

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US approves Egyptian C-130J purchase

by Gareth Jennings

Egypt is to acquire the latest C-130J variant Hercules to augment its older model aircraft. (Lockheed Martin)

The United States has approved the sale to Egypt of 12 Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules airlifters for USD2.2 billion.

Announced by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on 25 January, the approval covers the ‘long-bodied' C-130J-30-variant Hercules, as well as mission equipment, spares, training, and support.

“This airlift capability would assist with [Egypt's] border security, the interdiction of known terrorist elements, rapid reaction to internal security threats, and humanitarian aid,” the DSCA said. “Egypt also intends to utilise these aircraft for maritime patrol missions and search-and-rescue missions in the region”.

As noted in the approval notification, Egypt already operates a mix of legacy C-130s and so should have no difficulty absorbing these additional aircraft into its armed forces. The Egyptian Air Force (EAF) currently fields 22 C-130Hs, three C-130H-30s, and two EC-130H Hercules aircraft that were acquired from 1978, 1990, and 2001 respectively. The fleet is operated by 4 and 16 squadrons of the Cairo International Airport Transport Regiment.

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Japan steps up development of high-powered microwave weapons

by Kosuke Takahashi

Japan's Ministry of Defense (MoD) has allocated new funding for the development of high-powered microwave (HPM) weapons.

The MoD's Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) has allocated JPY7.2 billion (USD63.2 million) for fiscal year (FY) 2022, which starts in April, to fund efforts to complete a prototype of an HPM radiation weapon system by FY 2026.

ATLA documents seen by Janes also show that the agency aims to develop four technologies by FY 2026 that will be used in the new HPM system.

These technologies comprise: a small- and high-powered module that uses an active phased-array antenna; heat systems that enable a ‘streamed' HPM beam to be directed at an aerial target with maximum continuous power; HPM fire-control technologies to track and beam HPM energy at targets; and technologies to deal with multiple unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at once.

ATLA said the capability of existing air-defence systems is limited, given the increasingly wide range of threats. It added that an HPM weapon would meet future requirements for a persistent capability at a low cost.

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

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