The subsidiary of the group, Airbus Helicopters, has seen its business take off again in 2021, with the end of the year marked by major contracts. With a focus on innovation, the group has projects in decarbonization and urban mobility.
Airbus Helicopters recorded 414 net sales in 2021 compared to 268 in 2020 (due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic). Europe accounts for approximately 25% of total Airbus Helicopters sales in 2021, thanks to orders placed by the French, Spanish and German governments (France placing an order for 40 H160s, eight H225Ms and two H145s, Spain ordering 36 H135s and Germany purchasing eight H145s for the Bavarian police). This share is close to 90% in the military helicopter segment. In addition, the civil and parapublic market is picking up, with increased orders for light helicopters such as the H125 and H130. Internationally, the Group also developed its business during the year with the expansion of its partnership with The Helicopter Company in Saudi Arabia, as well as a new order from the Japanese Coast Guard, already an Airbus Helicopters customer.
Deliveries for the year 2021 totaled 338, compared to 300 in 2020, confirming Airbus’ position as market leader.
December saw a full order book. One of these was from the French Army, with the H160M ‘Guépard’ program (the military version of the H160M), in which Safran is a major player. The program involves an order for a total of 169 helicopters for the French armed forces, with the first deliveries scheduled for 2027, as part of the Joint Light Helicopter program, designed to replace five types of helicopters still in service with the French Army. An initial batch of 30 helicopters will be divided between the French Army (21 aircraft), Navy (8 aircraft) and Air Force (1 aircraft). Airbus Helicopters also ensures a ‘high level of availability of the Guépard’ through ‘an innovative maintenance contract’. The Airbus share gained nearly 4% in Paris, following this announcement.
Then there are the orders for Tiger Mark 3s and 36 H135s from the Spanish government, in view of a very important €4 billion contract for Airbus Helicopters from the beginning of 2022. The contract covers the launch of the Tiger Mark 3 modernization program for France and Spain, involving 85 aircraft, and will be signed on behalf of France (about €2.8 billion) and Spain (€1.1 billion), with the OCCAr (Organisme conjoint de coopération en matière d’armement).
2021 has been a year of dynamic product innovation and improvement at Airbus Helicopters. As an example, the VSR700 unmanned aerial system, began testing its range in flight ahead of the sea trials planned next.
The year 2021 has also been critical for the company’s decarbonization roadmap. The Flightlab helicopter has begun testing new technologies such as the engine backup system, which is aimed in particular at a fundamental first step on the road to hybridization. Airbus Helicopters also launched a SAF User Group to accelerate the deployment of biofuels, and ended the year by flying an H225 with an engine powered by 100% SAF. Airbus Helicopters is therefore committed to innovating and pioneering sustainable aerospace by implementing the use of sustainable aviation fuel, and continues to develop urban air mobility with the unveiling of CityAirbus NextGen in September 2021 at the Airbus Summit, for the market of flying taxis.
Finally, the group’s new dynamic is also reflected in hiring: no less than 500, or even 600, new hires are announced for 2022 alone, which will be mainly in France, Germany and Spain.