A full-scale mock-up of the H160M “Guépard” (“Cheetah”), revelaed at Airbus Helicopter HQ in Marignane, France. (E. Raz)

The French Armed Forces have accelerated their acquisition timeline for its Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger (HIL), or joint light helicopter program, now scheduled to launch in 2021, according to Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly. The HIL aircraft, for which Airbus Helicopters’ H160M was selected in 2017, is now slated to be operational by 2026.

France’s military has ordered 169 H160M helicopters, to be used across its army, navy and air force, replacing and simplifying the five different light attack helicopters currently in use across the services. The Airbus H160 was designed as a modular helicopter, allowing its military version to perform wide-ranging mission sets from a single platform.

A full-scale mock-up of the H160M — which has been designated “Guépard,” or Cheetah — was revealed by Minister Parly during a visit to Airbus Helicopters headquarters in Marignane, France. It will be on display at the next Paris Air Show.

“We are proud that the HIL is considered a strategic program. I would like to thank the Ministry, the French Defense 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,” said Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters. “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.”