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French Navy receives first H160 helo for search and rescue operations

French Navy H160 SAR helicopter
Photo: Airbus

The French Navy has taken delivery of the first of six H160 helicopters that will bridge the gap in the service’s search and rescue (SAR) capability.

The aircraft is part of the interim fleet that will be delivered by the partnership formed between Airbus Helicopters, Babcock, and Safran Helicopter Engines.

The interim fleet of H160s will ensure critical search and rescue missions while awaiting the delivery of the H160M Guépard (Cheetah). In the frame of the French Joint Light Helicopter (Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger: HIL) program, 169 H160M Guépards are foreseen to replace five types of helicopters in service with the French armed forces.

“The delivery of the first H160 to a military customer is a major milestone for the H160 program”, said Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters. “This is the first public service version of the H160 to be delivered worldwide.”

In 2020 the French Armament General Directorate (DGA) signed a contract with Airbus Helicopters, Babcock, and Safran for the delivery of four H160s in the SAR configuration. In 2021, the DGA confirmed an option for two more H160s.

The first H160 for the French Navy was delivered to Babcock by Airbus Helicopters in May 2022. It has since then been modified into a light military configuration by Babcock. The modular cabin was also adapted for SAR operations and a Safran Euroflir 410 electro optical system was integrated.

The H160 will gradually start operating from the Lanveoc-Poulmic naval air station (Brittany), Cherbourg airport (Normandy), and the naval air station in Hyères (Provence), taking over the duties from ageing Alouette III helicopters.

Built by Airbus Helicopters, the medium twin engine H160 is powered by Arrano engines and is certified for the use of night vision goggles, which are necessary for winching operations at night.