Airbus Helicopters sees strong interest in the H175M – the military version of the super-medium-twin – and is already completing the integration of its HForce modular weapons system onto the platform.

Meanwhile, its services and support arm is seeking inventory for part-out, and is already eyeing the UK’s Puma fleet.

Airbus H175M-c-Airbus Helicopters

Source: Airbus Helicopters

First opportunity for the H175M could come in the UK

Speaking to journalists at the airframer’s Marigane site on 15 February, programme manager Jerome Fagot said the M-model variant had been launched last June with the intention of diversifying the H175’s customer base.

He says “the first big campaign” is the UK’s New Medium Helicopter (NMH) requirement for up to 44 helicopters to replace the Royal Air Force’s Puma HC2 transports, plus three smaller rotorcraft sub-fleets.

If selected for NMH, Airbus Helicopters would build H175Ms for the UK and export at a new assembly line in Broughton, North Wales.

Although winning the contest in the UK “could have a huge impact” on the programme, Fagot points out that “the [H175]M was not launched only for NMH”.

The civil H175 was developed in conjunction with Chinese airframer Avicopter – which also builds its own version, the AC352 – and features extensive use of Chinese-sourced parts, including the airframe.

But in anticipation of military requirements, Airbus Helicopters in 2021 built an H175 that was free of Chinese content.

“We have launched and secured suppliers in Europe in order to duplicate the Chinese sources in order to offer to the market a version without Chinese content,” says Fagot.

He declines to reveal which “European suppliers” were recruited to the programme, although one potential candidate is Airbus Atlantic – the group’s French aerostructures business.

German Air Force's H145M with HForce weapon system

Source: Airbus Helicopters

HForce system allows integration of guided and unguided weapons

As a further step, Airbus Helicopters is also contemplating the addition of HForce, enabling the integration of a variety of guided and unguided weapons.

Fagot says although early demand is focused on a “tactical troop transportation” version, “for sure, HForce probably will come one day or the other”.

Such a development would depend on market demand, but the airframer is “in discussions with several potential customers”, he adds. To date, the HForce system has been announced for the H125, H145M and H225M.

Separately, Airbus Helicopters appears to be keen on the acquisition of the UK’s Puma fleet for part-out when the helicopters leave service in the coming years, potentially adding a further dimension to its interest in NMH.

Christoph Zammert, executive vice-president customer support and services, says those assets would allow the manufacturer to keep other operators of the legacy type flying.

“Providing the price is right and the documentation there, we would be interested in buying them back.”

Airbus Helicopters has already acquired several civil rotorcraft – 13 H120s and three H135s – for dismantling, with its “harvest list” including dynamic components, landing gears and avionics equipment.

RAF Puma 50th anniversary tail

Source: Crown Copyright

Purchase of Puma fleet could provide source of parts