Airbus has set an ambitious sales target for the militarized H160M helicopter, predicting that hundreds of medium twin-cylinders could enter service in Europe and elsewhere over the next two decades.
France is expected to finalize an agreement for up to 180 H160M helicopters for its army, navy and air force by the end of the year. Beyond that, Airbus plans to sell up to 400 helicopters by 2030, according to Matthieu Louvot, executive vice president of Airbus Helicopters programs.
“We believe that until 2030, the market outside France could be 400 helicopters. So very important, ”Louvot said on November 30 during a commercial press briefing broadcast from Munich, Germany. “We think another 400 could be orders from different countries around the world depending on the fleets they have, the capabilities they might request. “
France has planned to buy at least 169 H165M, which it calls the “Guepard” – French for cheetah – and plans to sign a contract to formalize the Helicopter Light Joint (HIL) or joint light helicopter program, with Airbus from here the end of the year. The HIL aircraft, for which the H160M was selected in 2017, is expected to enter service and start replacing five different light attack helicopters currently in use by 2026.
“We are moving in the right direction and it should be soon, hopefully, but it is not entirely my call, otherwise it would already be over,” said Louvot when asked if the French contract was still in place. on track to be signed before the new year. Louvot did not specify which countries outside of France are targets for H160M sales.
Leonardo Helicopters also purchases its AW149 for the British NMH program.
Although it is a military aircraft, the H160M owes its design and capabilities to the civilian H160, which obtained certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in 2020 but is still awaiting validation from this approval from the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). . The first delivery of a civilian H160 is to a U.S. customer, making the FAA seal of approval all the more valuable, but travel restrictions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic have prevented personnel from the FAA to visit the Airbus headquarters in Marignane, France.
Still, Louvot said the program was “progressing well” and that the H160M would benefit from the development, certification and imminent entry into service of its civilian counterpart.
“The H160M exploits both all the advantages of the civil machine 160 and brings all the new generation of sensors, mission systems, communication systems that you would expect from a state-of-the-art, state-of-the-art military helicopter. . »Said Louvot. “More important for military missions, the autopilot lightens the pilot’s workload and allows him to concentrate on the mission. And that’s a key advantage in many harsh environments where military customers fly. So all of these key advantages of the 160 platform will be applied to the 160M and, of course, it will incorporate latest generation military sensors and mission systems. ”