X4 H160 Guépard Light Rotorcraft
Joint Light Helicopter program (Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger: HIL)
Originally launched in 2009 as the X4 and with the intent to develop a device to mark a "technological break", the H160 was presented March 3, 2015 at the show Heli-Expo of Orlando [United States].
The H160 opens a new chapter in the history of Airbus Helicopters. Joining the product range between the H145 (formerly EC145) and the H175 (formerly EC175), this innovative medium helicopter becomes the first new member of the H generation. The entire design was based on one overriding goal: to create added value for customers in terms of performance, economic competitiveness, safety and comfort. Both cleaner and quieter, the H160 takes a step forward in respect for the environment. Configurations being developed include offshore transportation, business and private aviation, public services, and commercial passenger transport.
Configurations being developed include offshore transportation, business and private aviation, public services, and commercial passenger transport. The H160 was intended to replace the Dauphin series in the company’s product line. The H160M would presumably replace the AS 565 Panther (the military version of the Dauphin) in the firm’s product line.
Airbus Helicopters, formerly Eurocopter, was a subsidiary wholly owned by the Airbus Group, a global aerospace and defense leader. Operated by more than 3,000 customers, the company’s fleet in service includes some 12,000 helicopters in approximately 150 countries. Its range of civil and military helicopters was the world’s largest, with the civil fleet having achieved a 44 percent market share in the civil and parapublic sectors.
In French service, the replacement of light helicopters was the four-tonne HIL (Hélicoptère interarmées léger - Helicopter Inter-armee Light) program to replace Gazelle, Dauphin, Fennec. In combat, it would be used to prepare the engagement of the Tigers, much like the Americans do with their Kiowa. The HIL program (formerly known as the 4-tonne HC4 program) aims to combine the replacement of light helicopters of the three armed forces, ie the Gazelle, Puma, Fennec, Alouette III, Dauphin and Panther. Objectives targeted for the HC4 / HIL by the previous military programming law (2009-2014) was 188 machines for a first delivery in 2018.
The HIL was not included in the attached report of the current Military Programming Act 2014-2019, while the previous [2008-2013] provided for a "global program centered on a helicopter (or helicopter family) Of 4 tonnes (HC4, ed) will cover the delivery of 188 units from 2018."
On 03 March 2016, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced that he had retained the H160 as part of the Of the Joint Light Helicopter (HIL) program. "It was decided simultaneously to accelerate the procedure with a first delivery advanced of four years minimum," added Le Drian. Which means that the first HIL will be delivered from 2024 instead of 2028, as it was originally expected. In addition, the minister also said that "we will also work quickly on the succession of the Super Puma family".
The Joint Light Helicopter (hélicoptère interarmées léger – HIL) program was approved by the French state to meet two objectives: to replace the five fleets of helicopters that are in service in all three branches of the French armed forces; and to implement overall improvements to maintaining the fleet in operational condition (maintien en condition opérationnelle – MCO). The H160M’s modularity and versatility allow it to cover the entire mission spectrum assigned to the HIL.
On 07 March 2017 France selected the Arbus H160 for the Light Rotorcraft Replacement [Remplacement des hélicoptères légers] program. The award would see Airbus supply between 160 and 190 aircraft to all three services, with deliveries expected to begin in 2024. As many as 420 of 6 different type of operational helicopters will be replaced by the H160 including the French navy's Alouette IIIs, SA 365 Dauphin and AS565 Panther, the French Air Force's AS555 Fennec and SA330 Pumas; and the French army Pumas, SA341/SA342 Gazelles and Fennec.
By February 2020 Airbus Helicopters and the French Armament General Directorate (DGA) were pursuing a new set of studies to further the militarization of the H160 and to define its associated support ecosystem in the frame of the Joint Light Helicopter program (Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger: HIL) This contract launches pre-development activities for the military version of the H160, also called the Guépard by the French armed forces, in order to meet the delivery schedule that was brought forward in May 2019 by the French Minister of Armed Forces, Florence Parly.
The new set of studies will also focus on defining the optimal set-up for supporting the tri-service H160M fleet. Airbus Helicopters, Safran Helicopter Engines, and the DGA will work closely together in order to maximize the availability rate of the helicopters, as well as optimizing the cost of supporting the fleet. Bringing the launch of the HIL program forward to 2021 will enable first deliveries to the French armed forces in 2026.
Weaponised and furnished for light attack operations, the H160M can quickly be reconfigured to perform missions ranging from commando infiltration to air intercept, fire support, and anti-ship warfare; up to two stretchers for search and rescue operations; as well as a fast rope system, cargo hook, and hoist that can equally be used for parapublic missions—a versatile, all-in-one asset for modern militaries.
The first of a new generation of helicopter, the H160M derives from the EASA-certified H160. It benefits from a low cost of operations and optimised flight safety. The H160M incorporates the latest technological achievements in French aeronautics. To ensure a high level of availability while reducing operating costs, the H160M’s support and services needs were taken into account from early in its design phase. Innovative and simplified, the H160M’s support is based on the exploitation of data through analytics. In addition, the H160M can be integrated into a secured digital support environment.
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