Armament: the future light helicopter armies will take off two years earlier

Army Minister Florence Parly will announce the progress of deliveries for the two-year Light Joint Helicopter (HIL) program. To achieve this, Airbus Helicopters will self-finance and pre-finance an amount of about 150 million euros.

Airbus Helicopters

What twists and turns for the HIL program, the future helicopter of the three armed forces. This time, Airbus Helicopters wins two years compared to the first deliveries that had been planned in the Military Planning Act (LPM) 2019-2025. This is what will announce this Monday in Marignane on the site of Airbus Helicopters the Minister of Armies, Florence Parly, who will unveil the name of this 6-ton helicopter developed from the platform H160 (1 billion euros) and a scale model 1.

The contract of realization will be signed in 2021 (instead of 2022), then the first deliveries of the apparatuses intended for the army of Earth are expected in 2026 (instead of 2028). Or the first year of the next LPM. The armies will receive a total of 169 HIL (Light Joint Helicopters) to replace five very old helicopter fleets (Alouette 3, Dauphin, Gazelle, Fennec and Panther): 80 for the Army, 49 for the Navy and 40 for the Navy. ‘Air Force.

First deliveries to the Army
This is not the first time that this program knows advances, then turns of screws. In March 2017, Jean-Yves Le Drian, then Minister of Defense, announced to Marignane that the first HIL will be delivered in 2024 instead of 2028. But “nothing was planned to fund this program. had not been prepared yet and nothing had been learned, “says one in La Tribune. Initially, it was even planned until 2012 that the first copies of the HIL be delivered in 2020.

For her part, Florence Parly seems to have found the keys of the financing to advance by two years the first deliveries of the HIL program to the Army. The latter will be delivered primarily to replace the Gazelle, who will be 40 years old in 2025. The other four fleets will be between 30 and 35 years old in 2025. “The sooner we replace these fleets, the better it will be because we are very interested to have these helicopters as soon as possible to have at the earliest improved operational capabilities “, it is argued in the entourage of the minister.

Original financing
Advancing two-year deliveries from the HIL program will not increase the credits dedicated to the 2019-2025 LPM. How? By two levers: Airbus Helicopters has agreed to self-finance part of the development of HIL and pre-finance part of the studies and production. Approximately 150 million euros: 10% of the amount will be self-financed by the manufacturer and 130/135 million pre-financed. Airbus Helicopters will lend this money to the state with, of course, interest (between 6 and 7 million euros) that the Ministry of the Armies will reimburse during the next LPM.

According to the estimates of the Ministry of the Armed Forces, the possibility of retrieving older devices faster two years earlier could save “a big hundred million euros,” says one in the entourage of the minister. Especially since the HIL should have reduced maintenance costs. Which would mean that the Ministry of the Armies should ultimately save “a hundred million euros by advancing this program by two years”, says one. This operation between the Ministry and Airbus Helicopters is “a concrete manifestation of the new relations that we want to have with the industrialists” as part of the reform of the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) and the reform of the armament.

Airbus is targeting an export market of 200 aircraft
If the Ministry of the Armies wins, Airbus also has good reason to make such efforts for reasons of BITD (defense industrial and technological base), continuity of industrial chain and engineering office. Especially the builder eyeing an export market estimated at 400 machines in this segment of light helicopters between 2025 and 2030. Airbus Helicopters would see well capture half of the market. “The sooner the manufacturer will have a reference of the French army on this product, the more he will have the chance to sell it for export”, says one, La Tribune. Clearly a win-win operation.

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