The French Ministry of the Armed Forces has advanced the launch of the Joint Light Helicopter (Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger, HIL) programme by one year to 2021.

Airbus Helicopters’ H160 was announced as the choice for France’s HIL programme in March 2017. The programme was originally scheduled for launch in 2022.

The revised schedule will help advance the delivery of the first H160M helicopters to the French Armed Forces to 2026.

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly has also unveiled the full-scale mock-up of the H160M. The helicopter to be delivered to France will be designated as ‘Guépard’ (Cheetah).

Airbus will display the mock-up at the Ministry of the Armed Forces stand at the Paris Air Show, which will be held next month.

Airbus Helicopters CEO Bruno Even said: “I would like to thank the ministry, the French Defence Procurement Agency DGA and the armed forces for their trust and for the close collaboration, which helped create the conditions for the programme to be brought forward within the framework of the current military budget law.

“This will make it possible to speed up the replacement of the older generation of aircraft while optimising the support and availability of the French State’s helicopter fleet.

“Our teams are committed to delivering an aircraft in 2026 that meets the needs of the French Armed Forces in terms of availability, performance and capability, thus enabling it to rapidly become the new benchmark on the world’s medium-lift military helicopter market.”

“The HIL programme aims to have a single platform to replace five legacy types in the three services.”

The H160 has the ability to conduct a range of missions, including commando infiltration, air intercept, fire support, and anti-ship warfare.

Featuring two Arrano engines, the helicopters will provide support to meet the needs of the army, navy and airforce.

The HIL programme aims to have a single platform to replace five legacy types in the three services.

France will acquire a total of 169 helicopters, which includes 80 that will join the army. The French Navy and French Air Force will receive 49 and 40 respectively.

Airbus noted that the H160 will have simplified maintenance and lower operating costs.