Paris, France, 3 March 2017 — The French Minister of Defence, Jean-Yves Le Drian, in an official communication made today, made public his decision to equip the French Armed forces with some 160 to 190 Airbus Helicopters H160Ms over the coming decade under the HIL (or “Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger”) national programme.
The Airbus Helicopters H160 (formerly X4) is a twin-turbine civil light to medium utility helicopter formally launched during Heli-Expo at Orlando in Florida just two years ago, day for day. It is a medium lift rotorcraft intended to replace the legacy AS365 and EC155 in the company’s catalogue. The maiden flight of the prototype took place in June 2015. First customer deliveries were expected in 2018 but have now slipped to 2019. The H160M would be its military version with France being the launch customer for this model.
The H160M is to be in the coming years the single helicopter model aimed at replacing in the French Land Forces (ALAT), French Air Force and French Navy such types as the Fennec and Gazelle, but also the Dauphin, Panther as well as the last surviving Alouette III in Aéronavale use. The H160M might as well replace the last SA330 Pumas before 2030.
For Airbus Helicopters it now remains to be proven that the H160M — still in project — can be adapted to its new military task without any added conversion costs…