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Airbus Helicopters has additional HForce customers in its sights

Airbus Helicopters is continuing its efforts to win more orders for its HForce common weapons programme, and believes that further deals could be unveiled "in a short time".

So far, Serbia is the only confirmed customer for HForce, with the system to be integrated onto its fleet of on-order H145M medium-twins.

But once initial qualification is achieved later this year, further orders should be forthcoming.

"It is not like before – people want to see the product on the shelf before they buy it," said Thierry de Boisvilliers, marketing manager at the airframer, speaking at SMI's Helicopter Technology Central and Eastern Europe conference in Prague on 23 May. "This is why it is a real opportunity to have the first customer."

Initial integration work has focused on the H145M, adding podded machine guns and unguided rockets to the platform. A second qualification for laser-guided rockets will follow in 2019, says de Boisvilliers.

Two other Airbus Helicopters platforms, the H125M light-single and H225M Caracal heavy-twin are also part of the first wave of HForce integration work.

Neither has attracted a customer so far, but France appears keen to arm its fleet of 10 H225Ms.

Lt Col Eric Goffinon, the air force's helicopter component commander, says it is looking to add both guided missiles and rockets to its Caracals for long-range escort missions.

De Boisvilliers says Airbus Helicopters is in "close contact" with the air force, but stresses there is no formal requirement at present.

The airframer is in future likely to look at adding HForce to the H160M, he says, again for its French customer.

Paris in 2017 selected the developmental medium-twin as part of a tri-service replacement comprising 169 helicopters.

Goffinon says the air force will use the new 6t-class helicopters to replace aged H125M Fennec and AS330 Puma fleets.

To replicate the missions performed by these legacy types, the H160M will need to be configured for air-to-air refuelling, he says, as well as fielding a specific sensor for air interception missions over major French cities.

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