The H160M Guepard is a new medium-lift helicopter under development. Image courtesy of Eric Raz /Airbus Helicopters.
The H160M helicopter is expected to enter service in 2026. Image courtesy of Airbus Helicopters.
A scale model of the H160M was presented during the Euronaval 2018 exhibition held in October 2018. Image courtesy of Marie-Sophie LETURCQ.

The H160M Guepard is a new medium-lift helicopter being developed by Airbus Helicopters for the French Armed Forces, under the Joint Light Helicopter (Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger – HIL) programme.

The helicopter is intended for use by the French Army, Navy, and Air Force to perform multiple missions including commando infiltration, air intercept, fire support, and anti-surface warfare.

A scale model of the H160M was on display at the Euronaval 2018 exhibition held in October 2018, while the full-scale model of the H160M Guepard rotorcraft will be exhibited during the Paris Air Show 2019.

Details of the HIL programme

The Airbus H160 was preferred for the HIL programme in 2017 and was originally scheduled to be launched in 2022. The launching of the new helicopter in 2021, ahead of its original schedule, would, however, enable delivery of the first H160Ms to the French Armed Forces from 2026.

The programme will involve the delivery of a total of 169 helicopters to the three armed forces. The French Army will receive 80 helicopters, while the navy and air force will receive 49 and 40 rotorcraft, respectively.

The H160M helicopter will replace five legacy helicopter types in service with the three military services.

H160M Guepard joint light helicopter design and features

H160M is a military version of the H160 medium-lift utility helicopter, which was first unveiled at the Heli-Expo show held in Orlando, Florida, US, in March 2015. Based on a civil platform, the H160M will ensure simplified maintenance and reduced operating costs than the old-generation of rotorcraft in its class.

“H160M’s cockpit will be equipped with the Helionix avionics suite, which integrates up to four multi-functional displays.”

The modular design of the H160 also allows for the integration of mission systems to configure the H160M platform for deployment in multiple missions.

The H160M will feature a composite fuselage to achieve weight reductions and fuel savings. It will be equipped with cutting-edge technologies such as Blue Edge five-bladed main rotor, which can reduce the acoustic signature by 50% and increase the lift by 100kg when compared to conventional rotor blades.

The helicopter will also feature a Spheriflex bearingless main rotor hub, which is designed to minimise weight and optimise damage tolerance. Its main rotor will have a diameter of 13.4m. The tail assembly will include a canted Fenestron anti-torque tail rotor.

H160M’s undercarriage will feature a tricycle-type landing gear with a nose unit and two main units. The nose wheel will be fitted with twin wheels, while the main units will be installed with a single wheel unit each.

The helicopter can be armed with MBDA’s Sea Venom (ANL) anti-ship missiles (ASMs) to perform anti-ship warfare missions. The over-the-horizon missile can engage targets within the range of 20km.

Cockpit and cabin

H160M’s cockpit will accommodate up to two crew members. It will be equipped with the Helionix avionics suite, which integrates up to four multi-functional displays.

The spacious cabin offers an internal volume of more than 7m³ and can house up to 12 armed personnel.

H160M Guepard joint light helicopter engines

The H160 Guepard will be powered by two Safran Arrano turboshaft engines supplied by Safran Helicopter Engines. The engine will feature a two-stage centrifugal compressor, a reverse-flow combustion chamber, and a single-stage power turbine. It is expected to deliver a maximum power output of 1,300hp.

The power-plant will reduce fuel consumption by 15% when compared to its counterparts and will also increase the payload-range performance of the H160M. The time between overhauls (TBO) of the Safran Arrano engine is 5,000 hours.