The French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, has announced that the launch of the Joint Light Helicopter program has been brought forward to 2021.
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The HIL program, for which the Airbus Helicopters H160 was selected in 2017, was initially scheduled for launch in 2022 by the current military budget law. Launching the program earlier will enable delivery of the first H160Ms to the French Armed Forces to be advanced to 2026.
During a visit to the Airbus Helicopters headquarters, the minister also revealed the full-scale mock up of the H160M that will be presented on the Ministry of the Armed Forces stand at the next Paris Air Show.
The helicopter was also given its official name and will be designated as 'Guépard' (Cheetah) by the French Armed Forces.
Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters, thanked the French Ministry of Defence and the French Defence Procurement Agency DGA, saying, "We are proud that the HIL is considered a strategic program. I would like to thank the Ministry, the French Defence Procurement Agency DGA and the Armed Forces for their trust and for the close collaboration which helped create the conditions for the program to be brought forward within the framework of the current military budget law."
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 through the HIL program.
"This will make it possible to speed up the replacement of the older generation of aircraft, while optimising the support and availability of the French state’s helicopter fleet. Our teams are committed to delivering an aircraft in 2026 that meets the needs of the French Armed Forces in terms of availability, performance and capability, thus enabling it to rapidly become the new benchmark on the world’s medium-lift military helicopter market," Even added.
Built around a platform that will enter service next year, the HIL program will benefit from many of the advantages inherent in the civil H160, particularly in terms of support, with simplified maintenance and lower operating costs than the previous generation of helicopters in this category.