The French Armament General Directorate is to supply four H160s to the French Navy for search and rescue missions through a partnership between Airbus Helicopters, Babcock, and Safran Helicopter Engines. The French Navy will start operating these helicopters in 2022 for a period of 10 years.
Airbus explains this interim fleet of H160s will provide the French Navy with continuity for SAR missions as the Alouette III retires from service and pending Guépard deliveries. In addition, French Navy operational feedback will be leveraged for the design of the military version of the H160 and its support system.
“We are sure that the improved situational awareness, increased pilot assistance, and visibility that the H160 provides will prove to be a valuable asset for their critical and demanding missions,” said Bruno Even, CEO, Airbus Helicopters. “Our industrial partnership with Babcock and Safran Helicopter Engines will allow us to ensure the highest level of availability for the French Navy and we are honoured to have been entrusted with this mission.”
Powered by twin Arrano medium engines, Airbus describes the H160 as a next-generation aircraft with a modular design to address missions ranging from offshore transportation, private and business aviation, emergency medical services, and public services. Its entry into service is planned for later in 2020.
First deliveries of the military version, the H160M, or Guépard as it referenced by the French armed forces, are scheduled for 2026. Airbus notes it expects to provide 169 H160Ms within the country’s Joint Light Helicopter program to replace five types of helicopters in service in the French armed forces.