Military Prospects Buoy Airbus Helicopter’s Hopes In Asia-Pacific

Credit: David Chua/MAphotoSG

SINGAPORE—A growing need for larger rotorcraft and fleet modernization will lead a requirement for around 1,300 new military helicopters in the Asia-Pacific region over the next decade, Airbus Helicopters says.

Fleet renewals, as well as training needs and border security, will combine to make Asia a highly contested market for manufacturers, according to Fabrice Rochereaux, head of sales for Airbus Helicopter’s Asia-Pacific unit. Of the estimated 1,300 new helicopters, the company says it has a realistic chance of grabbing up to one-fifth of that market.

Around 2,150 Airbus helicopters currently operate in 27 countries around the region. Of these, about 40% are operated in non-civilian roles, split between military and parapublic missions. The single-engine H130 is targeted at the growing military training market, which is expected to surge toward 2024-25, while the H145M light twin is aimed at the utility and multirole sector.

The company also sees growing opportunities in the region for a military version of the H175 medium-lift commercial helicopter—a variant that Airbus also is proposing for the UK’s emerging New Medium Helicopter requirement. Aimed at replacing the Royal Air Force’s fleet of Airbus Puma HC2s by 2025, the 8-ton helicopter also will be “proposed to meet the requirements of several countries,” says Patrick Le Barbenchon, Airbus Helicopters’ operational marketing manager.

“We have started trials of the aircraft with specific military equipment, and we expect a good response from the market,” says Le Barbenchon, who notes the potentially large numbers involved in the current Puma replacement market. In service since 2015, the H175 is involved in offshore oil market operations as well as search-and-rescue and law enforcement.

Airbus already has outfitted versions of the H175 with paramilitary equipment for the Hong Kong Government Flying Service, and is studying the addition of troop seats, an electronic warfare system and tactical radios for the UK proposal.

For larger military missions the company also continues development of the H225M, the most recent variant of which is a naval version produced by Airbus Helicopters' Brazilian subsidiary Helibras. Described by Airbus as the most complex configuration of the H225M ever developed, the anti-ship version includes a countermeasure system, tactical radar, a tactical data management system and the ability to carry the MBDA Exocet AM39 B2M2 missile. The H225M also is operated by the Singaporean military.

Guy Norris

Guy is a Senior Editor for Aviation Week, covering technology and propulsion. He is based in Colorado Springs.