France orders TBM940s to replace ageing TBM700s

The French armaments directorate – the Direction Générale de l’Armament (DGA) – has ordered four six-seat Daher Aerospace TMB940 single-engine turboprops to gradually replace its three-strong fleet of TBM700As, which entered service almost 30 years ago.

The order was announced by the DGA on February 18, although the EU€21.8m contract had been signed at the end of 2020. France’s four new TMB940s will be operated by the Centre d’Expertise et d’Essais DGA Essais en Vol (DGA – Flight Test Centre of Expertise and Testing), with deliveries beginning this summer. When operational, the aircraft will be used to train pilots and test engineers, as well as providing support for the benefit of military and civilian aeronautical programmes.

The recently signed contract also includes additional services relating to aircraft test instrumentation, training sessions and maintenance in operational conditions. The TBM940s ordered will be modified by Daher Aerospace prior to their delivery. Each aircraft will be integrated with new test and instruction capacities within the framework of training provided by EPNER.

TBM940 [Daher Aerospace]
A TBM940, four of which have been ordered by France’s DGA. Daher Aerospace

This work will include wing modification to allow the carriage of a wide variety of payloads of up to 165lb (75kg) under each wing. The cabin will accommodate test facilities, as well as an operator console to receive and federate the data collected by the various systems installed. A reinforced electrical generation system will allow all mission equipment to be integrated without power limitation.

These new capabilities will add to the current missions of the TBM700As, which are used daily to support flight testing, operate liaison flights, act as chase planes and support testing away from DGA Flight Test sites. The DGA currently operates three TMB700As in this role. This three-strong fleet comprises serials: 35 ‘BW’, 80 ‘BY’ and 94 ‘BZ’.

On September 24, 2020, the DGA announced that it is also upgrading its trials helicopter fleet. A contract was awarded by the DGA on August 3, 2020, to a consortium formed by Airbus Helicopters and Héli-Union to supply three new-generation helicopters to the directorate. These Hélicoptères Bancs d’Essais, Nouvelle Generation (HBE NG, New Generation Test Bed Helicopters) will be based on the civilian H225 – the latest version of the Super Puma.

Héli-Union will deliver them unmodified, with the DGA making the relevant modifications for the helicopter’s new testbed role. From early-2024, these aircraft will replace the four specially-instrumented SA330 Pumas that are currently in use.