Airbus Helicopters has begun assembly of several H145Ms for customers who have yet to sign for the light-twin, in anticipation of the contracts being finalised shortly.
Briefing journalists at the manufacturer’s Donauworth production site in southern Germany on 30 November, programme manager Constance Pinsdorf said the move is designed to expedite deliveries once contracts are placed.
“We are in ongoing tenders and here and there in the finalisation phase. And we do our best also from the Airbus Helicopters side to guarantee the delivery schedule.
“So we have already started production for contracts not-yet signed, because we want to make sure we can deliver on time.”
Pinsdorf declines to discuss ongoing tender activity and the identity of prospective customers remains unclear.
However, Germany has a well-documented interest in acquiring a new light helicopter – potentially in an armed configuration – through its LUH SK programme for over 50 airframes.
Little information has emerged on the progress of that requirement, but with Berlin recently moving forward on several other acquisition programmes an announcement could be made in the coming weeks.
Next to receive its H145Ms will be Cyprus, which in 2022 ordered six examples for its National Guard. Around 30% of total H145 output – both civil and military models – is for the M variant, she says. In 2022 the airframer delivered 83 H145s, its data records.
As a baseline helicopter the H145M is not armed, but it can be equipped with the airframer’s HForce modular weapons package, with potential armaments ranging from podded machine guns or 20mm cannons, to unguided and guided rockets and missiles.
Airbus Helicopters continues to expand the range of weaponry available on the H145M and is currently working with Thales subsidiary FZ to add the FZ606 smart launcher to its inventory.
Integration of the six-shot launcher has been driven by operator requests for “more precise weapons, more intelligent weapons”, says Pinsdorf. It includes a laser-guided capability and a ‘lock on before launch’ facility.
Based on customer feedback “we are deeply convinced that this is our next step forward”, she says, with the system potentially to be available from 2026.
Airbus Helicopters is also continuing integration work on the Rafael Spike ER2 guided missile following a firing campaign last year.
That project is currently in the “finalisation phase” and will require another firing campaign “to finalise the qualification”, she adds. Adoption of the missile will extend the firing range from 10km (6 miles) to around 16km.
“I would not say it’s done but we are in the final part. We have already got the way forward and we know there is a market for it.”
Another undisclosed missile is also being considered for integration after a customer request, says Pinsdorf, although no decision has been taken on whether to proceed.
Meanwhile, the airframer is also pursuing a project to update the mission system on the H145M to enable a modular open system architecture that is better able to cope with the demands of the modern battlefield, says Pinsdorf.
Developed in partnership with IT specialist HAT Tec, the digital mission system will facilitate manned-unmanned teaming – with multiple unmanned air vehicle or air-launched effects – and communication with other nearby assets.
Tests using air-launched effects are planned, she adds, although there is presently no timeframe for such activities.
Although there will be some integration with the HForce weapon system, such as the automatic upload of targetting co-ordinates, Pinsdorf stresses that firing will always be triggered by a human.
“At the end, we do not want the weapon system to be controlled by an autonomous mission system.”
Delivery of helicopters equipped with the updated system will be to the H145M’s next customer, she adds.
Previously disclosed customers include Cyprus, Ecuador, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Serbia, and Thailand.