Airbus Helicopters H160
The Airbus Helicopters H160 (formerly X4) is a medium utility helicopter being developed by Airbus Helicopters. Formally launched at Heli-Expo in Orlando, Florida on 3 March 2015, it is intended to replace the AS365 and EC155 models in the firm's lineup. In June 2015, the first test flight took place; the first customer deliveries were expected in 2018 but have slipped to 2019.
|H160 prototype in flight|
|Role||Medium utility helicopter|
|First flight||13 June 2015|
The Airbus Helicopters H160 was first revealed to the public in 2011, at which point it was referred to by company representatives by the designation X4 – a designation which implied it to be a follow-on from the Eurocopter X3, a high-speed hybrid helicopter technology demonstrator. Speaking in early 2011, Eurocopter (later renamed as Airbus Helicopters) chief Lutz Bertling declared that the X4 would be a "game changer", contrasting significance of the innovations it would feature with Airbus' development of fly-by-wire controls. Early features alluded to included Blue Edge active tracking rotor blades, advanced pilot assistance functionality, and reduced vibration to "near-jet" levels of smoothness. The X4 was also described as having a "radically different" cockpit, Bertling stating that "The cockpit as we know it today will not be there". It was also announced that the X4 would be introduced in two stages: an interim model in 2017 with some of the advanced features absent, and a more advanced model following in 2020.
The development program for the X4 cost €1 billion ($1.12 billion), even after numerous cutting-edge features, including proposed highly advanced control systems, were toned down or eliminated as too risky or costly. On 3 March 2015, the X4 was formally unveiled under the H160 designation. It has been marketed as a successor to the company's existing Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin and competes with the AgustaWestland AW139, Sikorsky S-76 and Bell 412; Guillaume Faury, Airbus Helicopters Chief Executive, referred to the H160 as being "the AW139 killer". The H160 began Airbus Helicopter's re-branded naming convention; starting 1 January 2016, helicopters in the same range shall bear the 'H' designation, resembling how Airbus names their commercial aircraft.
A design emphasis was placed on using Airbus' production and support techniques as used for advanced fixed-wing aircraft such as the Airbus A350 passenger jet; accordingly, a pair of test rigs were built to separately test the dynamic and system elements respectively to speed up the design process. On 29 May 2015, the first H160 prototype was unveiled at Airbus Helicopters' Marignane facility in France. On 13 June 2015, the first prototype performed its first flight from Marignane. By November 2015, the flight envelope of the prototype had been progressively expanded, having attained a maximum altitude of 15,000 feet (4,600 m) and a maximum speed of 175 knots (324 km/h; 201 mph) so far. On 18 December 2015, the second prototype, the first H160 to be equipped with Turbomeca Arrano engines, performed its initial ground run; its maiden flight took place in 27 January 2016.
In November 2015, it was announced that certification of the H160 and its entry into service with civil operators were both scheduled to take place in 2018; a military-orientated variant, designated H160M, is aimed to enter service in 2022. In March 2016, H160 program chief Bernard Fujarski stated that nearly all milestones set for 2015 had been achieved, save for the second prototype's first flight having being delayed to January 2016, and that the H160's aerodynamic configuration had been validated. Testing had revealed a need to relocate some electronics systems to the rotorcraft's nose from the rear portion of the main fuselage for center of gravity reasons, while the fenestron shrouded tail rotor had reportedly exceeded performance expectations.
In 2015, Airbus estimated that there was a market for 120–150 airframes annually; the company intends to initially increase the manufacturing rate to roughly 50 aircraft per year. In July 2016, it was announced that the aeromechanical configuration of the rotorcraft had been frozen. Manufacturing of the first production H160 is scheduled for 2017; the first delivery may take place in late 2018 or early 2019. A new production scheme, drawing inspiration from the automotive industry, is to be implemented in the H160's construction; it is a stated aim for the final assembly lead time of the new rotorcraft to be half of that of the preceding Dauphin.
In March 2017, French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced at Marignane that the H160 was selected as the basis for its tri-service light rotorcraft replacement programme, the hélicoptère interarmées léger (HIL), with between 160 and 190 required from 2024 to replace 420 aircraft : French navy’s Alouette IIIs, SA 365 Dauphin and AS565 Panther, the French Air Force’s AS555 Fennec and SA330 Pumas; and the French army Pumas, SA341/SA342 Gazelles and Fennec. In May 2019, French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly christianed this helicopter as H160M Guépard.
In October 2017, the initial pair of prototypes reached 500h of flight testing while the third should make its maiden flight, the entire flight envelope had been opened leaving hot weather, antennas, optional equipment testing and certification flights. In 2018, 10 pre-serial helicopters were assembled before certification and deliveries in 2019, production was looking to be increased to 50 per year. The first serial H160 made its maiden flight on 14 December 2018.
Its Safran Arrano turboshaft received its type certificate during the June 2019 Paris Air Show, before EASA approval for the H160 planned for the fourth quarter before first delivery to a US customer for corporate transport in May 2020.
The Airbus Helicopters H160 takes advantage of several advanced manufacturing technologies and materials in order to produce a lighter, more efficient design. One weight-saving measure was the replacement of conventional hydraulic landing gear and brakes with electrical counterparts, the first helicopter in the world to do so; according to Airbus the elimination of hydraulic components makes the rotorcraft both lighter and safer. In 2015, Airbus claimed that the all-composite H160 would deliver the same basic performance as the rival AgustaWestland AW139 while being a ton lighter, having a lower fuel consumption and offering 15–20% lower direct operating costs. The composite fuselage also provided for greater design freedom of the rotorcraft's external styling. During the aircraft's development, features such as full de-icing equipment and a fly-by-wire control system, were deemed too heavy or costly for the benefits involved and were eliminated.
The H160 is the first rotorcraft to feature the Blue Edge five-bladed main rotor. This incorporates a double-swept shape that reduces the noise generation of blade-vortex interactions (BVI), a phenomenon which occurs when the blade impacts a vortex created at its tip, resulting in a 3–4 dB noise reduction and raising the effective payload by 100 kg (220 lb) compared with a scaled Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin rotor design. Aerodynamic innovations include a biplane tailplane stabiliser for greater low speed stability, and a quieter canted fenestron which combined produce an extra 80 kg of lift. The H160 is the first civilian helicopter to utilise a canted fenestron anti-torque tail rotor. The H160 will be powered by two Turbomeca Arrano turboshaft engines; a second engine, the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW210E, was to be offered as an alternative option, but this was eliminated due to insufficient power output and to reduce design complexity. A redundant backup for the gearbox lubrication system enables in excess of five hours of flight following a primary failure without causing mechanical damage.
In early 2015, Airbus claimed that the H160 is intended to have a "day one" availability rate expectation exceeding 95 percent. The H160 features the Helionix avionics suite, the cockpit being equipped with a total of four 6 in × 8 in (15 cm × 20 cm) multifunctional displays. Airbus Helicopters collaborated with Esterline CMC to develop portions of the avionics, such as the CMA-9000 Flight Management System and the CMA-5024 GPS landing system sensor, to automate the landing process. A full flight simulator has also been developed for the H160, in partnership with Helisim and Thales Group. The avionics provide a level of commonality with the company's earlier Eurocopter EC145 T2 and Eurocopter EC175 helicopters. Commentators have stated that this commonality to be similar to AgustaWestland's rotorcraft family concept.
- Crew: 2
- Capacity: 12
- Length: 14 m (45 ft 11 in)
- Width: 12 m (39 ft 4 in)
- Height: 4 m (13 ft 1 in)
- Empty weight: 4,240 kg (9,348 lb)
- Max takeoff weight: 5,670 kg (12,500 lb) extended gross weight: 6,050 kg (13,340 lb)
- Max payload: 1,760 kg incl. up to 500 kg additional fuel
- Powerplant: 2 × Turbomeca Arrano turboshaft engines
- Main rotor diameter: 12 m (39 ft 4 in)
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