The Airbus Helicopters H160 (formerly known under the designation of "X4") is an in-development, medium-lift, multi-role helicopter attempting to take away a good portion of the market share long held by rivals AgustaWestland, Bell, and Sikorsky. Following the design lines established by previous offerings such as the AS365 "Dauphin" series, the H160 was unveiled in March of 2015 sporting a very futuristic appearance. Should all go well in development, Airbus Helicopters is eyeing delivery dates of its latest product for 2018.
Internally, the H160 seats two crew in a traditional side-by-side arrangement with plenty of window panels along the cockpit walls, floor, and ceiling for excellent vision out-of-the-cockpit. The instrument panel is dominated by four 6" x 8" Multi-Function Display (MFD) touchscreens that offer pertinent operational information. Avionics will be managed through a Helionix suite. The passenger cabin is set to carry up to twelve in comfort and is set aft of the cockpit in the usual way while under the twin engine installation on the roof. The engine of choice are 2 x Turbomeda TM800 "Arrano" series turboshaft systems outputting at 1,100 shaft horsepower (the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW120E was under consideration for a time also) driving a five-blade main rotor and Fenestron-shrouded tail rotor. The main rotor blade is a next-generation composite system (termed "Composite Blue Edge") and its design features slanted blade tips which improved the vortex result, increases Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW), improves fuel economy, and lowers operating noises. All of the main rotor blades are joined along a Spheriflex rotorhead.
One of the more unique features of the H160's tail rotor beyond its obvious use of a Fenestron shroud is its slightly angled (12 degrees to starboard) position which serves as something of a secondary lift device for the helicopter while pulling double-duty as an anti-torque system. Another noteworthy design feature is implementation of a biplane wing assembly along the tail stem just ahead of the Fenestron assembly - this intended to improved low-speed flying stability.
Airbus Helicopter is currently (2015) in the process of arranging the various test components that make up the proposed H160 to prove individual systems sound before full prototype flight testing ensues. However many of these proposed systems make it into the finalized product remains to be seen. Other existing Airbus Helicopter products will serve as in-flight testbeds and be followed by three total flyable prototypes (beginning with "PT1"). Preproduction helicopters will be designated "PS1".
For the lucrative civilian market, the H160 could very well threaten competitor holds in medical, corporate, Search And Rescue (SAR), and oil and gas industries. A militarized form - the H160M - is being bandied about that would feature service modifications and some weapons support.
H160M "Guepard" ("Cheetah") - The militarized form of the X4 has gained steam within Airbus Helicopters. The type is being planned as a light-class system for multi-mission service across all major branches of the French military. The project is branded as the "Helicoptere Interarmees Leger" (HIL) translating to "Joint Light Helicopter".
The navalized model will feature Over-the-Horizon (OTH) sighting an targeting, side-mounted machine guns, an anti-ship missile capability, and protected/integrated data link with the VSR700 rotary-wing UAV and launch ship.
The Army variant will also sport a protected/integrated data link feature to communicate, in real-time, with accompanying ground forces, launch laser-guided rockets from side-mounted pods, house an Electro-Optical (EO) unit at the "chin" position, and support side-mounted automatic cannons and machine guns. Rappelling will be possible from the side fuselage doors.
The Air Force model will carry an EO set in the chin position, have side-mounting machine guns and cannon support for basic suppression, and include an in-flight refueling capability.
In January of 2016 it was announced that the second test H160 vehicle had flown with production-quality engines (the "Arrano") installed. The flight took place on January 27th.
March 2017 - Certification for the H160 is planned for 2019. Two flyable prototypes have been completed. A third example is planned before the end of 2017.
March 2017 - The H160 has been selected by the French military for its Helicoptere Interarmees Leger (HIL) cross-service helicopter program. As many as 190 could be procured under the program and will succeed several helicopters currently in service with the French Army and Navy.
December 2017 - It was announced that Airbus had flown the third prototype of the H160 series helicopters. This particular example is notable in being closer to production-quality forms than previous iterations going airborne.
February 2018 - The French military has selected the H160 to replace six of its helicopter fleets beginning in 2028. 169 procurement examples are currently planned.
February 2018 - The H160 is expected to enter the market in the middle of 2019.
March 2018 - Babcock of Britain has been announced as the first launch customer of the H160.
September 2018 - A first-flight for the H160 is tentatively scheduled for year-end, by December 14th, according to Airbus. The flight test program will ensure throughout 2019.
May 2019 - Airbus Helicopters is pushing through an accelerated procurement process to bring the H160M military model to service. Some 169 examples are sought by the French military (Army, Navy, and Air Force). These will be designated as H160M "Guepard" ("Cheetah"). A first-flight is tentatively scheduled for 2023 with service entry to follow in 2026.