Airbus to replace H145 with a mysterious new chopper called the X9
Airbus may be ramping up progress on a potential H145 replacement, the mysterious X9, according to a Reuters report. This follows over a decade of rumors about the helicopter since it was first alluded to In 2012. At that time, ex-helicopters chief Lutz Bertling outlined two coded projects: the X9 and the X6 "SuperPuma" replacement. However, the latter was scrapped due to low oil and gas prices that impacted its potential customer base. However, reports now suggest that a prototype of the X9 is actively in development.
The X9, once developed, will replace Airbus' highly successful H145
Airbus has produced over 1,600 versions of the X9's touted predecessor, the H145, for various purposes, including medical and policing. In 2022, it sold 83 helicopters, making it the second-best-selling model after the H125/130 "Squirrel." If there is a future successor to the H145, it would be a significant boost for the German division of Airbus Helicopters, Reuters report. This division was created in 1992 by merging France's Aerospatiale and Germany's MBB to compete against American rivals like Bell, Boeing, and Sikorsky. Spain later joined the collaboration. Before 2014, the company was known as "Eurocopter."
There has been little information about the X9 sister project's market since its initial announcement. Airbus Helicopters' German subsidiary mentioned in a 2020 Berlin filing that the board had been briefed on the X9 and "further steps," but no updates have been given. The subsidiary later stated that it would prioritize ensuring the future success of civil helicopters in Donauwoerth, Germany, where the twin-engined H135 and H145 are located. Marignane, France, where the world's biggest commercial helicopter manufacturer is based, is where most other civil programs are concentrated.
Airbus' sales are thriving, and they have focused on improving their current H145 model, which originated from a German-Japanese project in the 1990s. The latest version includes an additional blade. Nevertheless, behind the scenes, Airbus is investigating possibly creating a successor under the X9 codename. According to Reuters, they are taking this idea beyond the conceptual stage and actively seeking propulsion and other options for a planned demonstrator.
We may see a demonstrator of the X9 soon
A demonstrator is a test bench designed to evaluate technology that may or may not lead to a specific product. Airbus' focus is indicated by the plans for the X9, which also has a program office in Donauwoerth, as stated in a LinkedIn post. However, sources say that a decision to launch is still far off, despite the demand for the upgraded H145. Developing a new helicopter can cost up to $1 billion and take 7-10 years.
"As market leaders, we are, of course, looking into the next generation of helicopters," Airbus representatives told Reuters. "We are currently working on several research and technology bricks that are aimed at making our aircraft more efficient while offering performance and mission flexibility," they added.
"Currently our light twins are best sellers with over 65% of the civil and para-public market," they also told Reuters.