A Cheetah to Succeed Fennec!
(Source: French Air and Space Force; issued Nov 5, 2020)
(Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)
On Thursday, October 29, 2020, Brig. Gen. Olivier Fabre, commander of the Air Support and Projection Brigade (BAAP) of the Air Forces Command (CFA), visited Air Base 107 at Villacoublay to discover the future helicopter of the French Air and Space Force: the Cheetah, also known as Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger (HIL).

This large-scale project is led by the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) and by the Armed Forces Staff (EMA).

A full-scale mock-up of the H160M, named Guépard (Cheetah) and developed by manufacturers Airbus and Safran, sat proudly in one of the hangars of the 3/67 “Parisis” helicopter squadron. An initial version, it constitutes the basis of what will be the future light joint helicopter.

The Cheetah was chosen by the Ministry of the Armed Forces in March 2017 to meet the needs of the three services. The concept of a single fleet will allow the services to pool and mutualize both development, maintenance and sustainment costs. In May 2019, Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, announced her decision to speed up the HIL program to allow delivery two years ahead of the original schedule.

"The HIL will be delivered in 2030 to the Air and Space Force," said General Olivier Fabre. This six-ton aircraft will eventually replace the 40 Fennecs in the fleet. It will be dedicated to the protection of the national territory, to fire support and intelligence missions in foreign operations, to medical evacuations as well as to search and rescue. "

Designated to carry out the same missions as the Fennecs, which have been in service since the 1980s, the Cheetah will be equipped with very latest-generation equipment. One such equipment is the so-called “Blue Edge” blades, whose curved shape will reduce their noise level and improve their aerodynamic efficiency.

In addition, the Cheetah will be able to carry surveillance and observation equipment such as an electro-optical camera or a tactical radar, lateral mounts for carrying different weapons and equipment improving its survivability during operations in hostile areas such as a self-protection system or hot gas jet deflectors from the engine, for infrared stealth.

"These technological innovations will allow us to integrate into an increasingly dense and tactical environment in order to allow us to carry out increasingly complex missions", explains Major Sébastien, commander of EH 3/67 "Parisis, which will be the first Air Force squadron to be equipped with the Cheetah.

In addition, the Air Force has expressed the need for its HILs to have an in-flight refueling capability and Link 16 tactical data links. Thus equipped, it will be able to carry out, like the Caracals of the EH 1/67 "Pyrenees," long-distance penetration missions.

The objective: to minimize the footprint, go further faster and guarantee flexibility and permanence in action.


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