Merging requirements for the HIL

The first of the 80 joint light helicopters (known as HIL, the French acronym for hélicoptère inter-armées léger) will probably not be delivered before 2028 which “is not very comfortable for the renewal” of the army’s fleet of helicopters, regrets Major General Olivier Gourlez de la Motte, commander of the ALAT French Army helicopter command.

The Gazelle first entered service in 1973

The Gazelle first entered service in 1973

The HIL programme is designed to eventually replace the Gazelles, Fennecs, Dauphins and Panthers of the French armed forces and the Air Force Pumas. Work on defining the requirements is still underway, we were told by General Monique Legrand-Laroche, director of operations at the DGA French procurement agency. She said she hoped that the programme could be accelerated so that first deliveries could take place earlier than 2028.

For the time being each army is working on establishing its requirements. Those of the ALAT are ready and do not exactly match those being set out by the Navy, the Special Forces or the Air Force.

So, De la Motte, speaking this morning, 12 February, to the Who’s Who of the French helicopter world to unveil the re-organisation of the ALAT (which we published on 14 and 15 December 2015), stressed that this “stacking up of requirements is risky” and he wondered whether the project “will be accelerated to meet certain niche needs such as those of the Special Forces or the Navy?

He added that he would “prefer that we remain on joint [requirements]. The aim is to work on making our requirements converge. Our differences don’t need help!

Responding to a question from the auditorium concerning heavy transport helicopters, the general replied simply that the ALAT had none “because the manufacturer [Airbus Helicopters] doesn’t make them.” He explained that there was a European need for about 90 such helicopters and said he supported the idea of going “to fetch this competence [of manufacturing heavy transport helicopters] elsewhere.” And with the humour that characterises him, he added that “what we share the most [with our European colleagues] is our gaps!