by Raymond Jaworowski, Forecast International.
Airbus Helicopters unveiled the new H160 civil medium twin helicopter in early March at the Heli-Expo show in Orlando, Florida. Previously known as the X4, the H160 is intended to replace the Dauphin series in the company’s product line.
The H160 will be powered by a pair of 1,100-shp Turbomeca Arrano engines. Maximum takeoff weight will be in the 5.5-6.0-metric-ton range. Other features of the new helicopter will include a composite airframe, Blue Edge composite rotor blades, the Helionix avionics suite, electrically actuated landing gear, a biplane stabilizer, and a canted Fenestron.
Development cost of the H160 is estimated at EUR1.0 billion ($1.12 billion). First flight of the new helicopters is slated to occur sometime in 2015, and could take place as early as April. Three prototypes are to be used in the flight test campaign, as well as a preproduction helicopter. Service entry is planned for 2018.
The H160 slots into the Airbus Helicopters product line between the H145 (previously known as the EC 145T2) and the H175 (formerly the EC 175), essentially replacing the EC 155B1 and AS 365 Dauphin models. The timing of the Dauphin models’ exit from production is uncertain. Both the AS 365 and EC 155B1 will remain in production at least until 2018, and the EC 155B1 (to be henceforth known as the H155) could live on a lot longer than that should it be chosen as the basis for South Korea’s Light Armed Helicopter (LAH) and Light Civil Helicopter (LCH) programs. The LAH is intended to be an attack helicopter for the South Korean Army, while the LCH would be a related commercial model.
The H160 is being targeted at the offshore oil and gas, corporate aviation, public service, and commercial transportation markets. The new helicopter will be able to carry 12 passengers to an oil platform 120 nautical miles from shore, complete a missed approach, and return to land on one tank of fuel.
The H160 is an important program for Airbus Helicopters, as the company is looking to take back the initiative in the civil medium twin market from AgustaWestland, which has been dominant in the segment in recent years with the AW139 and its AW169 derivative.
Airbus Helicopters is tentatively planning a military H160 version, dubbed the H160M, but has not yet formally committed to such an endeavor. The H160M would presumably replace the AS 565 Panther (the military version of the Dauphin) in the firm’s product line.
Meanwhile, Airbus Helicopters has announced a comprehensive rebranding initiative that will see the EC-labeled designations of many of its helicopters being progressively replaced by H-labeled designations, with the H standing for “helicopter.” (Thus, the EC 155B1 has become the H155.) Military versions will have the letter M at the end of the designation.
The company is excluding some models from this new branding initiative, including the AS 350B2, AS 365N3+, AS 565MBe, EC 145e, AS 332C1e, AS 332L1e, AS 532ALe, Tiger, and NH90. These models will retain their current designations.