The French Ministry of the Armed Forces notifies Airbus Helicopters of the contract to acquire and support 169 light joint “Guépard” helicopters (source French MoD)

Paris, December 22, 2021 – Emblematic program of the rise in strength of the Armed Forces allowed by the 2019-2025 military programming law, the HIL [1] programme aims to replace five types of helicopters contributing to combat, intelligence, operational light transport, support missions, training and public service by a single aircraft, derived from the H160.

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The 169 aircraft ordered will be divided between the Army (80), the Navy (49) and the Air and Space Army (40). Deliveries will begin in 2027.

The production of the Guépard (Cheetah) will irrigate the entire French aeronautical sector and help sustainably maintain more than 2,000 jobs in France.

Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, declares: “By ensuring the progressive replacement of 5 different types of aircraft, some of which have been in service for more than 40 years, the Guépard will provide our services with the means to carry out their missions more effectively for the next 40 years. This programme perpetuates the know-how and jobs of Airbus Helicopters, the European leader in civil and military helicopters “.

Provided for by the Military Programming Law (LPM) 2019-2025, the order for 169 Cheetahs, including the firm order for the first 30 aircraft, is part of a global market of ten billion euros including:

  • the development and delivery of 169 aircraft;
  • provision of the support and training system;
  • maintenance in operational condition (MCO) for ten years.

The notified contract also includes in addition:

  • the order for ten H160 helicopters for the Gendarmerie Nationale, decided within the framework of the support plan for the aeronautical industry, for an amount of more than 200 million euros;
  • ordering from the DGA test and expertise center in flight tests of a future H160 helicopter test bench to ensure flight tests for the development and qualification of equipment and future weapons systems.
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A militarized version of the new H160 model in Airbus’s civilian helicopter line, the Guépard will replace the Gazelle, Alouette III, Dauphin, Panther and Fennec helicopters currently in service. The concept of a “single fleet” will make it possible to pool development costs between the three services. It will also make it possible to optimize support by taking advantage of economy of scale, for example on spare parts stocks.

After the pre-project phase notified in 2019 by the DGA to Airbus Helicopters and Safran Helicopter Engines, development work will last until 2029. The first productions will start in 2024.

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Support for the aircraft will be provided by Airbus Helicopters for the first ten years from the delivery of the first helicopter. It is fully in line with the reform of the aeronautical MCO decided by the Minister of the Armed Forces in December 2017 and implemented by the Directorate of Aeronautical Maintenance (DMAé). The responsibility of the manufacturer as soon as the market is notified for in-service support services guarantees the availability of aircraft at a controlled cost.

Thanks to the addition of specialized equipment for each sercie, the Guépard will be able to carry out a wide variety of missions:

  • For the 80 Army Guépards: armed reconnaissance, fire support, special forces infiltration, command support;
  • For the 49 Navy Guépards: air-sea combat, protection and support of the naval force, special naval actions, State action at sea;
  • For the 40 Air and Space Army Guépards: airspace surveillance and defense, search and rescue, fire support and intelligence.

The launch in production of the Guépard secures the industrial activity of the Airbus Helicopters site in Marignane for the next 15 years. This is a program that will irrigate the entire French aeronautical industry, in particular its SMEs across the country with 80% of H160 parts suppliers installed in France, mainly in the south. In total, more than 2,000 jobs will be permanently located in France by the Guépard and its derivatives for export.

Source French Ministry of the Armed Forces

Unofficial translation by EDR On-Line

Images courtesy Ministry of the Armed Forces and Airbus Helicopters

[1] HIL,Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger, Joint Light Helicopter