The French air force has requested 38 Airbus Helicopters H160Ms as its share of the country's tri-service medium-category rotorcraft acquisition.

To be acquired under the hélicoptère interarmées léger programme, Paris has indicated a total requirement of 169 helicopters, with deliveries to begin around 2025.

All of the air force's H160Ms are to be capable of performing air-to-air refuelling, says Lt Col Eric Goffinon, commander of the service's helicopter component, although it will not require refuelling probes for the entire inventory.

The H160M must be able to receive fuel from both Lockheed Martin KC-130s and Airbus Defence & Space A400Ms. "It is a challenge for Airbus," says Goffinon, "but they are working on it."

With the H160Ms to replace the air force's inventory of H125M Fennec and SA330 Puma helicopters, they are to be equipped for a broad range of missions, including search and rescue, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, close air support and air interception.

Those destined for close air support tasks will be equipped with a 20mm cannon and guided rockets.

The air force is also investigating the potential integration of a pilot-controlled 7.62mm gun, to be used for the interception of light aircraft. However, if this cannot be achieved, it will continue to deploy with a sniper on board.

"We want the H160M to be capable of finding and neutralising light aircraft and UAVs," says Goffinon.

He anticipates that the French navy will be the first of the three services to receive the H160M, with the air force and navy following.