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In a partnership with Airbus Helicopters, Babcock and Safran Helicopter Engines, the French procurement agency DGA is providing the French Navy with four H160 helicopters for search and rescue (SAR) missions. The helicopters will bridge the gap between the withdrawal of Alouette III and the entry into service of H160M Guépard from 2026 for a period of ten years from 2022. Maiden flight of the H160M is planned for 2023.

The civil version, the H160, will be launched later this year.

H160 is a next-generation twin-engine helicopter in the 6-ton class and is powered by two Safran Arrano engines (738 kW continuous power each). The modular concept allows mission-specific equipment for e.g. offshore transport, private and business aviation, emergency medical services and public services.

The H160M Guépard military version, which is also modular, will be delivered from 2026 in a total of 169 aircraft. It is to replace five helicopter types (Army: Gazelle; Navy: Alouette III, Dauphin and Panther; Air Force: Fennec) in the French armed forces as part of the joint light helicopter programme (Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger, HIL). For the Army, 80 helicopters are planned from 2026, for the Navy 49 from 2028 and for the Air Force 40 aircraft.

The range of roles in the army includes armed reconnaissance, fire support, special forces and medical evacuation. The navy intends to use the helicopter for anti-ship, reconnaissance and sea rescue missions. Air force roles include airspace protection, SAR and reconnaissance.

Gerhard Heiming