Babcock International, in partnership with Airbus Helicopters and Safran Helicopter Engines, has delivered the French Navy’s first of six H160 twin engine helicopters.

The new rotorcraft will be deployed to carry out search and rescue (SAR) operations.

The helicopter will gradually start operating from France’s Lanveoc-Poulmic naval air station in Brittany, Cherbourg airport in Normandy and naval air station in Hyères, Provence.

The three companies were selected by the French Armament General Directorate (Direction générale de l’armement – DGA) in February 2020, to deliver four H160 helicopters in SAR configuration.

A year later, the DGA exercised additional contract option for procuring two more aircraft.

Babcock received the first H160 from Airbus in May this year, to upgrade the original aircraft into a light military configuration, as per the French Navy’s requirements.

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The modifications involved equipping a modular cabin, suitable for undertaking SAR operations, and integrating a Safran Euroflir 410 electro optical system.

Airbus Helicopters CEO Bruno Even said: “The delivery of the first H160 to a military customer is a major milestone for H160 programme.

“This is the first public service version of the H160 to be delivered worldwide.

“With this H160 we will strengthen our partnership with the French Navy, delivering the right helicopter for its critical SAR missions.”

According to Airbus, the H160 fleet will support the French Navy’s SAR mission requirements until the delivery of 169 H160M Guépard, under the French Joint Light Helicopter programme.

The H160Ms are expected to replace five different types of helicopters operated by the French armed forces.