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France has contracted Airbus for the development and production of the H160M Guépard (Cheetah) helicopter for its military. The contract which is part of the Light Joint Helicopter program (HIL) includes the development of several prototypes and the delivery of a first batch of 30 aircraft (21 for the army, 8 for the navy and one for the air force). 

The HIL program was approved by the French state to meet two objectives: to replace the five fleets of helicopters that are in service in all three branches of the French armed forces; and to implement overall improvements to maintaining the fleet in operational condition.

The French Ministry for the Armed Forces plans to order a total of 169 H160M helicopters. Deliveries will start in 2027 beginning with the French Army. 

According to the company announcement, the H160M is adapted to modern warfare thanks to its increased connectivity, maneuverability, low acoustic footprint, and a fully integrated support system. 

The first of a new generation of helicopters, the H160M is derived from the H160. It benefits from a low cost of operations and optimized flight safety. 

The H160 was designed to be a modular helicopter, enabling its military version, with a single platform, to perform missions ranging from commando infiltration to air intercept, fire support, and anti-ship warfare in order to meet the needs of the army, the navy and the air force. 

To ensure a high level of availability while reducing operating costs, the H160M’s support and services needs were taken into account from early in its design phase. Innovative and simplified, the H160M’s support is based on the exploitation of data through analytics. 

Trials conducted in the Moroccan desert in July 2021 demonstrated the efficiency of the H160’s inlet barrier filtration system in protecting the Safran Arrano engines against sand ingestion. The tests in the desert also demonstrated the efficiency of the automatic flight control system during the takeoff and landing operations with limited visibility due to sand clouds. The H160M will be ready to operate in the roughest conditions.

The military version of the H160 will be more discreet than previous helicopters with a reduced acoustic signature made possible by the Blue Edge blades.