French Navy Receive First H160 for Search and Rescue Missions

And Airbus H160 helicopter hovers over a search and rescue boat.
Photo Credit: Airbus Helicopters

LONDON – The French Navy has taken delivery of the first of the six Airbus Helicopters H160s that will be conducted solely to perform SAR (Search and Rescue) missions.

The aircraft is part of the more expansive interim fleet that will be delivered as part of the tight partnership forged between Safran Helicopter Engines, Babcock and Airbus Helicopters. 

Airbus Helicopters statement

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

“Furthermore, the delivery takes place soon after two H160s entered into service this summer, in Brazil for the private and business aviation segment and in Japan for news gathering missions”. 

The CEO furthered: “With this H160 we will strengthen our partnership with the French Navy, delivering the right helicopter for its critical search and rescue missions. Together with our partners, we will also ensure that the H160 is ready when needed”.

In fact, back in 2020, a contract was inked between the  French Armament General Directorate (DGA) and Airbus Helicopters, Babcock and Safran for the delivery of four H160s that are already configured for search and rescue (SAR) configuration.

In 2021, the DGA positively confirmed an option for two more H160s helicopters. This signals popularity amongst operators that  H160 is a reliable helicopter. The first of the handful of H160 ordered for the French Navy was initially delivered to Babcock from Airbus Helicopter in May of this year.

The Babcock delivered the helicopter since then has been reconfigured into a light military option. The cabin was purposely adapted for SAR-related missions and a Safran Euroflir 410 electro-optical system was joined.

After the new H160 delivery, the helicopter will slowly start operating from the Lanveoc-Pulmic naval air station (Brittany), Cherbourg airport (Normandy), and the naval air station in Hyères (Provence).

The caretaker fleet of H160 will enable the French navy to conduct critical search and rescue missions while waiting for the arrival of the H160 Guepard. 

The H160M Guepard

The Guepards are the chosen successor to replace the five types of helicopters in use by the French military. The Guepards are under the framework of the French Joint Light Helicopter (Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger: HIL) programme.

Operational feedback from the French Navy is that the H160 will greatly benefit the organisation under the military version, as it fully supports the system used by the military. 

Babcock, in joint and close partnership with Safran helicopter engines and Airbus helicopters, will ensure the highest level of readiness and availability of the French Navy and the continuity of SAR missions demanded by the French military on both coasts of the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

The H160, manufactured by Airbus Helicopters are also night vision goggles certified which are crucial for night operations. The H160 has proven to be a reliable helicopter capable of performing any mission asked. 

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