French Army brings forward H160M delivery date

The Aviation Légère de l’Armée de Terre (ALAT, French Army Air Corps) has announced that deliveries of its first Airbus Helicopters H160M Guépard (Cheetah) helicopters will take place in 2026, two years earlier than planned.

France intends to procure 169 H160Ms to serve across all three of its military air arms – 80 for the army, 49 for the navy and 40 for the air force – under its Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger (HIL, Joint Light Helicopter) programme. In line with the new delivery dates, the nation has brought forward the start of the programme, which will now begin next year.

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A mock-up of the naval variant of the H160M Guépard, which is pictured equipped with MBDA's Sea Venom lightweight anti-ship missile. Airbus Helicopters

According to the French Army, the “modularity and the versatility of the H160M Guépard will allow it to carry out a wide range of missions, both national and in co-operation with allies”.

In army service, the Guépard will be employed in armed reconnaissance, special forces infiltration/exfiltration, medical evacuation (medevac) and fire support missions. The type will replace the service’s ageing SA342M1 Gazelle Viviane and SA342Ma Gazelle Mistral light helicopter fleets.

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A rendering depicting the H160M helicopters in operational French Army colours. Airbus Helicopter

The platform will also replace the Armée de l’Air’s (AdlA, French Air Force) AS550U2/AS555AN Fennec and SA330Ba Puma fleets. It will also be used to replace the Aéronautique Navale’s (French Fleet Air Arm) Alouette III, AS365 Dauphin and AS565 Panther helicopters.

The Guépard is a militarised variant of Airbus Helicopters’ H160 commercial helicopter family. The company states that the platform “benefits from a low cost of operations and optimised flight safety. The H160M incorporates the latest technological achievements in French aeronautics.”