French Navy Accepts Last of Six H160 Guépard Helicopters

The French Navy has received the final H160 Guépard rotorcraft under a six-unit contract signed in 2020.

The handover at the Lanvéoc-Poulmic naval air base concluded the initial tranche of aircraft to replace Paris’ aging Panthers, Dauphins, Alouettes, Pumas, and Fennecs.

With the French Navy, the H160’s primary role will be maritime rescue and alert missions. Additional helicopters are planned as aero-maritime combat assets aboard the navy’s sea-base platforms.

Developed by Airbus, the Guépard is powered by Turbomeca Arrano engines for a maximum speed of 150 knots (277 kilometers/172 miles per hour), an altitude of 15,000 feet (4,572 meters), and a range of 475 nautical miles (880 kilometers/547 miles).

It is operated by two pilots and can carry up to five additional personnel for medivac and combat operations.

The rotorcraft incorporates winch equipment to carry out individuals and resources during rescue missions, and a Safran 410 airborne electro-optical camera for both day and night situational awareness.

Meanwhile, the aircraft’s combat version can be integrated with a cabin-mounted Pintle machine gun, a sniper rifle, and side-mounted air-to-surface missiles.

‘Modular and Incremental’ Capability

The decision to employ H160s was announced in 2017 as part of the government’s Light Joint Helicopter legacy replacement program. This initiative plans to acquire up to 200 Guépards.

In 2019, the French Ministry of Defence christened the H160. Two years later, Paris and Airbus signed a contract to supply 169 H160M variants for the navy, army, and air force.

Airbus delivered the first of the six H160s for the French Navy’s maritime rescue tranche in September 2022.

H160 Guépard helicopter. Photo: French Directorate General of Armament
H160 Guépard helicopter. Photo: French Directorate General of Armament

“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,” Airbus said during the initial H160 delivery.

“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.”

“The H160M will be equipped with Airbus Helicopters’ HForce weapon system, a modular and incremental solution enabling the use of a large choice of weapons. Equipment will also include a hoist and a fast roping arm.”

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