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France orders H160M helos for armed forces

France has ordered 169 H-160M 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 on 22 December.

Airbus Helicopters is to build 169 H160Ms, plus options, for the French Air and Space Force, the French Army Aviation, and the French Navy from 2027, French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly announced. It was revealed separately by the European Union that the contract is valued at EUR8.6 billion (USD9.8 billion).

“The Cheetah is a new helicopter. It will replace five different helicopters, some [that have been in] 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”.

Under the French armed forces' Joint Light Helicopter (Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger: 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.

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.

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