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Airbus prepares to build H160M prototype, notes ‘concrete' international interest

With the French Armed Forces to receive 169 H160M helicopters until 2037, Airbus will shortly be building the first of two flying prototypes. (Airbus Helicopters)

Airbus is to start assembly of the first of two flying prototypes of the H160M Guépard (Cheetah) helicopter for the French Armed Forces, and has noted strong interest in the six ton-class rotorcraft from the international market.

Speaking at Airbus Helicopter's Marignane production facility in Southern France on 18 May, head of the H160M programme, Vincent Chenot, said that the build of the first prototype will begin in the third quarter of 2022, ahead of the first flight in the first half of 2024. The second prototype will be built and flown in 2024.

“There will be significant tests to perform as we have an extensive programme to fulfil. We have started the development of the rigs, and we have already some rigs working for bench tests with the French forces to validate our designs and to validate concepts,” Chenot said.

The prototypes will be used to help achieve a two-step qualification for the H160M, “with the first step in March 2027, when we will do everything that is common [on the French army, navy and air force variants] for the aircraft, and then in March 2029 we will do the qualification of the [French] navy and air force specialities”, Chenot added.

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