France has decided to phase out its aging military helicopters. It already has an advanced fighter, the Rafale, in its air force, and is working on the Future Combat Aircraft System (FCAS).
Today, France awarded a contract to Airbus to begin manufacturing the H160M Guépard helicopter, commonly known as the “cheetah” for the country’s military, reported Janes. The announcement was made by French Defense Minister Florence Parly on December 22.
According to Parly, Airbus Helicopters will produce 169 H160M helicopters, as well as options for the French Air Force and Space, French Army Aviation and the French Navy from 2027. In addition, the The European Union said the contract is worth 8.6 billion euros ($ 9.8 billion).
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“The Cheetah is a whole new helicopter,” Parly said. It will replace five separate helicopters, some of which have been in service for more than four decades. “A concrete example of our renewal of equipment, the Cheetah will be used by all three branches of the military,” she said.
” It’s a first. This will increase its availability while reducing maintenance expenses, ”explained the Minister of Defense.
This declaration is indicative of the French desire to deploy the same helicopter in the three military services, which will increase joint readiness, improve interoperability and considerably reduce costs.
The agreement covers the development of various H160M prototypes as well as the initial delivery of 21 Cheetahs to the French Army, eight to the French Navy and one to the French Air Force.
The H160M helicopter, according to Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus, would give the French military new capabilities because it was built and equipped to withstand modern warfare.
“Having the French armed forces as a launch customer for the H160M is extremely beneficial,” added Even, noting that the helicopter is the culmination of a 10-year collaboration between the company and the Directorate-General for Armament ( DGA).
This declaration means that France will become the first customer and pilot of Cheetah Helicopters. The H160M is the military version of the EASA certified H160 which had already undergone tests in Morocco.
During the tests carried out, the efficiency of the filtration system of the intake barriers of Safran Arrano engines, as well as the performance of the automatic flight control system on take-off and landing under severe brown-out conditions. ”Caused by whirlpools of sand have been demonstrated.
Joint Light Helicopter Program
The Light Joint Helicopter program was designed to replace five different helicopter fleets with a single fleet that would be operated by the three branches of the French armed forces. Some of the existing helicopters date from the 1970s: Gazelles in the Army, Alouettes III, Dolphins and Panthers in the Navy, and Fennecs in the Air Force.
The government believes that by having only one type of helicopter in service, the military will be able to save money on development as spare parts can be purchased in bulk, according to Defense Post.
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The military will use the H160M Cheetah for reconnaissance, fire support, special forces infiltration and medical evacuations. It will be used for anti-ship missions, fleet protection and naval rescues. The Air Force will use it to guard airspace, conduct search and rescue missions, conduct intelligence missions and conduct operations far behind enemy lines.
However, the French ‘cheetah’ is not the same as the Indian ‘cheetah’ which has been operational for a long time now.
French “cheetah” and Indian “cheetah”
The French H160M ‘Cheetah’ is the militarized version of the civilian H160, developed by Airbus Helicopters. It is a two-seater chopper powered by two Safran Arrano turboshaft engines with a maximum expected power of 1,300 hp. The modular design of the H160 allows for the incorporation of mission systems, allowing the platform to be configured for many missions.
The H160M will have a composite fuselage to reduce weight and fuel consumption. Compared with conventional rotor blades, it will be equipped with advanced technology such as the Blue Edge five-blade main rotor, which can reduce the acoustic signature by 50% and improve lift by 100kg. It will be used by the three services of the French army to carry out intelligence and combat operations.
In contrast, the Indian Cheetah is identical to Eurocopter’s LAMA SA 315B. Indian state-owned company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) signed a license agreement for Cheetah with M / s SNIAS (later Airbus) in 1970. The first Cheetah made from raw materials was delivered in 1976-77, according to HAL .
It is a multi-functional, versatile, versatile, extremely agile and robust five-seat helicopter capable of operating under a wide variety of conditions of weight, center of gravity and altitude. The Cheetah holds the world record for high altitude flight in all categories of helicopters. The Artouste – III B turbine engine propels the helicopter.
Travel, observation, surveillance, logistical assistance, rescue operations and high altitude missions are all conducted with the Indian Cheetah. HAL has developed and sold over 275 of these multipurpose helicopters, which are now in service in India and abroad.
However, the Indian government is considering phasing them out as they are now out of use. There are over 300 aging helicopters with the Indian military, many of which are cheetahs.