PARIS — Following the recent pick of the Airbus Helicopter H160 for France's joint light helicopter, work will now begin to study modifications to adapt the civil rotorcraft to military missions, according to Laurent Collet-Billon, the head of the French Direction Générale de l'Armement acquisition office.
This work includes fitting the Anti-Navire Léger anti-ship missile for the Navy and a machine gun for the Army.
That work is expected to lead to a program launch in 2019 for 160-190 units, said DGA Director of Operations Monique Legrand Larroche, who declined to give an estimated value of an eventual order. Such information would handicap the office's negotiations on the deal, she said.
The helicopters will be delivered to the Air Force, Army and fleet air arm, replacing an aging and varied fleet including Alouette, Dauphin, Fennec, Gazelle, Panther and Puma. A pick of a single aircraft to replace such a range of light and medium helicopters has been a complex task, but one of the expected benefits is a smaller maintenance bill.
The Army air corps was keen to equip the special forces with a new attack helicopter, which would later be delivered to the conventional forces, reported Air & Cosmos magazine.
Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced during a March 3 visit to Airbus Helicopters' French headquarters at Marignane, southern France, a pick by the ministerial investment committee of the H160, a new helicopter developed for the civil market.