Airbus Helicopters is working with its French defence ministry customer on early de-risking activities for the H160M, having been selected by Paris to fulfil a tri-service requirement for almost 170 rotorcraft.

In April 2017, the H160M was selected by France as the basis for its hélicoptère interarmées léger (HIL) programme, which seeks to replace multiple fleets of aged types including SA342 Gazelles and SA314 Alouette IIIs.

A firm contract to officially launch the H160M is expected in 2022, supporting first deliveries after 2025, says Bernard Fujarski, senior vice-president of the programme.

"In the meantime, we are working extensively with the French defence ministry and the armed forces on de-risking studies where we are working on several topics and pre-development activities," he says.

Paris earlier this year detailed in its latest military acquisition plan an intention to purchase 169 H160Ms under the HIL effort: 80 for the army, 49 for the navy and 40 for the air force.

Fujarski says the development will benefit from the work that has gone into the civil variant of the H160, which is due to enter service in 2020.

The airframer's vision is to create a common baseline helicopter for all three French services, with specific equipment to tailor the platform to the mission, such as armaments or an in-flight refuelling system.