Airbus Helicopters has lifted the covers on its successor to the highly popular Super Puma.

The radical heavy-weight twin-engine X6 looks like it will share many of the design features of the company’s recently-launched H160 medium helicopter, with a five-bladed main rotor - making use of new low-noise blade technologies - and new materials in the fuselage and structure.

Launching the X6 program at the Paris air show, Airbus Helicopters CEO, Guillaume Faury has also stated that the X6 will be the company’s first commercial product to adopt a fly-by-wire control system. The NH90 is currently the only helicopter in the Airbus stable to use such a system. The aircraft will also feature a full de-icing system.

Faury says the aircraft will be targeted at the commercial market first with military variants coming much later. The X6 will be targeted at oil and gas operators, the search and rescue mission, and potential commercial transport.

“This is a major milestone for us,” Faury says, “This segment is changing, and we want to be ready for the next decade.”

The company has started a two-year concept phase that will go on to fine-tune the design and specification. The concept phase will likely result in a development phase that could result in a first flight in the early 2020s, and service entry in around a decade.

Airbus’s new development philosophy, seen in the H175 and the H160 has seen the company delivering an aircraft with the typical maximum takeoff weight of other helicopters in that category, but with a empty weight of one metric ton or more less than that of the competition. With new aircraft, the company generally tries to reduce operating costs and fuel burn by 20-25% over the current generation.

Turbomeca has already thrown its hat into the ring offering up its Tech3000 demonstrator as the technological basis of a new 3,000 shp engine that could power the X6. The company claims that the Tech3000 engine could deliver a 25% improvement in fuel economy. Other engine options could come from U.S. manufacturer, General Electric.

The company is now looking to European governments to support the program and the outlook is now more promising thanks to a the resolution of a standoff between parent Airbus Group and the French government over loans for programs. Development of the H160 was also supported this way.

Airbus says the current H225 and military H225M will remain in production for 10-15 years. Indeed the company is encouraged by the types selection by Poland, who will build the type in country. It is possible that as production of the X6 enters focus, assembly of the H225 family could be transferred to lines with Helibras in Brazil or in Poland.

Indeed Faury named Poland as one country that would play a role in the X6’s development.