On August 3, 2020, the French defense procurement agency (Direction générale de l’armement – DGA) awarded the contract to develop and supply three new-generation test bed helicopters (HBE NG) to the consortium formed by Airbus Helicopters and Héli-Union. This contract will contribute to the renewal of the fleet of test bed helicopters (HBE) at the DGA Flight Test Center.
Based on the H225 civil helicopter, these three HBE NGs will enable « DGA Essais en vol » to guarantee the continuity of its missions before the gradual withdrawal from service of the Puma test bed helicopters, whose average age is forty-eight years.
To carry out flight tests for the development and qualification of equipment and future weapon systems, DGA uses a diversified fleet of specially instrumented test bed helicopters (four Puma SA330s, four Dauphin SA 365s, three Fennec AS 550s), to ensure a wide perimeter including missiles, optronic sensors, electronic warfare and electromagnetic detection equipment and safety-rescue-parachuting equipment.
Héli-Union will deliver the three “unmodified” helicopters to the DGA after a maintenance visit. Airbus Helicopters will then carry out the development work for the test bed modifications as well as the modification work sites. They will be supported by contracts from the Directorate of Aeronautical Maintenance (DMAé).