Airbus Helicopters displayed a large model of the H160M at last week’s Eurosatory show in Paris. The design is a militarized version of the six-tonne, 160-knot H160 medium twin helicopter that is now in flight test. It has been selected as the platform for the Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger (HIL, joint-service light helicopter) program, which aims to replace seven fleets across the French air force, army and navy with a single type.
In early 2017 then-defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced that the H160M had been selected for the HIL requirement, specifying at the time a need for between 160 and 190 helicopters. That figure subsequently crystallized as 169, including 38 for the air force. No acquisition funds were allocated in the French 2019 to 2025 defense procurement law, although there is funding for continued risk-reduction and design refinement work. However, there is a clear need for modern helicopters and procurement may be accelerated. If not, the H160M is likely to enter French service around 2028.
The H160M is currently being proposed in distinct versions for the three services. They are weaponized using the Airbus Helicopters HForce system, including side-mounted stub pylons. All versions share common features, such as an electro-optical turret under the nose and 7.62-mm door guns.