The Airbus Helicopters H160 has been selected as the platform for France’s future HIL programme. French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian made the announcement during a visit to the company’s Marignane facility on 3rd March.
The HIL (Helicoptère Interarmées Léger or joint light helicopter), which has yet to be officially launched, is due to replace a broad range of existing platforms, including French Air Force Fennecs and Pumas, French Army Gazelles and Fennecs, and French Navy Panthers and Alouette IIIs.
The objective of the programme is to reduce costs thanks to joint procurement and shared maintenance and training.
The first two prototypes of the 6t twin-engine H160 are currently in flight testing, while a third machine is in final assembly. The civil version is on track for entry into service in 2019.
Airbus Helicopters says that a certain number of features that would be required for a military version have been integrated into the design from the outset. These include the landing gear, which has been designed to handle landings on the deck of a ship. Corrosion issues have also been taken into account for eventual naval operations.