PARIS — Airbus Helicopters has given details of plans to develop a new heavy helicopter, known as the X6, which it believes will become a successor to its NH90 and H225 helicopters with military customers in 15 years time.

The new, 19-passenger, 10-ton-plus helicopter will go through a "concept phase" over the next two years before full development starts, Airbus Helicopters CEO Guillaume Faury said at a presentation of the new helicopter at the Paris Air Show on Tuesday.

The helicopter will be initially conceived for oil and gas customers, and will feature fly-by wire controls, a first for a civil helicopter produced by the firm, Faury said.

"The X6 will start as a civil helicopter because it is more reliable for numbers, while the military systems will take longer to develop and we need a customer," he said.

The firm would be keeping its NH90 and H225 on the market for the next 15 years, with the aim of bringing the X6 on the market after that, he said.

Airbus's X3 prototype had yielded valuable research on rotors, which would allow noise to be reduced and efficiency to be increased, while fly-by wire technology would be transferred from the NH90 and Airbus aircraft, Faury said.

As Airbus Helicopters increases ties with Polish industry, Polish engineers would work on the new program, he said.

Faury said that the firm's new H160 twin-engine medium helicopter had made its first flight on Saturday. A mock up is on display at the Paris Air Show.

The H160 will be launched for civilian applications, but also could also be a candidate for the French military's requirement for a light helicopter to replace a range of platforms for the Army, Navy and Air Force.

The Airbus H145, which has now been ordered by German Special Forces and the Thai Navy, had now received European civil certification, he said.

"The German MoD has agreed to the obtaining of civil certification, which will form part of the military certification," he said.

Asked about the spinning off of Sikorsky by UTC and its possible sale, Faury called it "an important evolution" in the industry, adding: "We are keeping an eye."

Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.

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