France chooses the Airbus H160 as its future light joint helicopter

France chooses the Airbus H160 as its future light joint helicopter

The HIL (Light transport, logistical support, rescue, command and training support) will gradually replace the Alouette III, the Dauphin SP and the Fennec: deliveries will start in 2024

France MoD signed the very first big government deal for the brand new Airbus H160 twin helicopter. The French government announced on 3 March that it had selected the Airbus Helicopters H160 as the basis for its Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger (HIL) programme: the HIL (which stands for Light transport, logistical support, rescue, command and training support helicopter”) will gradually replace the aging fleet of Aérospatiale Alouette III, the SAS565 Panther and the AS555 Fennec currently deployed for a wide operating range.

It’s not clear at the if the H160 will be adapted for the specifc requirement of the HIL programme, and if there will be a military custom version of the H160.

France is in need of 160 to 190 HILs, as French Minister of Defence Jean-Yves Le Drian said during a visit to the site of Airbus Helicopters in Marignane. The exact number of H160s that will be ordered by France MoD has yet to be confirmed. "It was decided simultaneously to accelerate the procedure with a first delivery advanced of four years minimum -  said Le Drian - We will also work quickly on the succession of the Super Puma family”.

The first H160 in HIL configuration is scheduled to be delivered in 2024 while delivery of the first civil 5.5 to 6 tons H160, unveiled during HAI Heli Expo 2015, is scheduled for early 2019.

In the photogallery: Airbus Helicopters H160

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The H160 development continues to progress as the two prototypes in flight testing have logged around 140 hours with the second prototype (PT2) having performed the 100th flight mid-May. PT2 has been flying with Turbomeca’s Arrano engines since January 2016 and PT1, whose retrofit is being finalized, will be flying with the Arrano engines in the next couple of days.

In the video: H160 Cold Weather campaign

The flight envelope is continuously being expanded and PT2 has reached a maximum altitude of 20,000 feet and has performed turns at 2.2G confirming expected behavior of the rotor and dampers. The upcoming milestones in the flight test campaign are the climatic campaigns, continued performance testing of the Arrano engines and finalization of aeromechanical configuration of H160.


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