The Mexican Navy on Wednesday 28 September took delivery of the first of ten AS565 MBe Panther helicopters purchased in 2014, becoming the first customer in the world to receive the new version of this multi-role, medium-class military rotorcraft. The Navy will receive three other units before the end of the year and the remaining six by 2018.
The helicopters will be operated by the Naval Aviation in the Gulf of Mexico and on the Pacific coast, where they will perform a range of missions including Search and Rescue (SAR), disaster relief transportation and evacuation, drug enforcement and coastal protection. The contract also includes training of pilots and technicians to provide the Navy with full autonomy in managing its fleet and optimizing the availability of helicopters
New & proven The AS565 MBe combines new and proven technologies, according to Airbus Helicopters. It is equipped with two Safran Arriel 2N engines, which enhance its performance in hot & high conditions and enable it to achieve a top speed of 278 km/h and a range of 780 kilometers. It also boasts a new main gearbox, a latest-generation tail rotor and a 4-axis autopilot that reduces crew workload and makes the most demanding missions, such as SAR, easier to perform.
“The Mexican Navy’s first Panther helicopters came into service ten years ago,” said Vice Admiral Jose Maria García Macedo. “Since then they have been our most loyal ally when it comes to saving lives, and it gives us great pleasure to expand our fleet with the more modern version of the same aircraft.”
Mexican Naval Aviation’s AS565 MBe Panthers are able to perform landings on moving ships 24 hours a day, and are thus able to operate right across Mexico’s territorial waters. Their equipment suite includes a main- and tail-rotor blade folding system, a deck-lock harpoon and an emergency flotation system.
Airbus Helicopters will join with Korea Aerospace Industries in developing two 5-ton class rotorcraft that meet South Korea’s requirements for its next-generation Light Civil Helicopter (LCH) and Light Armed Helicopter (LAH).
Both the LCH and LAH will be based on Airbus Helicopters’ H155 (formerly known as the EC155) – the latest evolution of its best-selling Dauphin family, which includes the Panther military and parapublic variants. The LCH version is expected to enter service in 2020 while the service introduction of the LAH is targeted for 2022.
As part of the new commitment, Airbus Helicopters will transfer the company’s technical know-how – as already demonstrated in the indigenous Surion helicopter program – to ensure Korea is able to develop both the LCH and LAH helos, which should become the leading next-generation light rotorcraft in the 5 metric ton weight category.
The purchase of 24 French-made Dassault Rafale fighter by Egypt opens up possibilities for a sale of Airbus Helicopters to the North African country. As the Rafale deal includes the transfer of French Navy multi-purpose FREMM frigate D651 Normandie, it might be an excellent opportunity for the Egyptian Air Force to renew its aging Westland Seaking maritime helicopter fleet. With the current warm relationship between Cairo and Paris, Aérospatiale designs managed by Airbus Helicopters can be on the front-row of negotiations.
The French Navy is not really amused by its government’s decision to quickly transfer one of its eight planned FREMM frigates, produced by DCNS, less than half a year after it was commissioned at its homeport of Brest. Only one other vessels of the class is in service: D650 Aquitaine. Normandie was still very much in its trail period, like its newest sister D652 Provence. The Normandie crew will now move to the Provence. The vessel will be re-located from planned homebase of Toulon to Brest “to ensure French Navy’s anti-submarine warfare capabilities on the Atlantic Coast as originally planned”, according to a French Navy statement.
The Provence’s crew will move to the upcoming fourth vessel of the class, D653 Languedoc, which has been launched 12 July 2014 with planned commissioning in 2016. The retirement plan for the older FASM frigates Montcalm and Jean de Vienne has been delayed until 2017 and 2018.
France plans to operate the NHIndustries NH90NFHs from the FREMM frigates, which have hangar space for one helicopter, but is unlikely that Egypt will opt for that machine. The Egyptian Navy doesn’t have any air assets itself, but the Egyptian Air Force holds 10 Kaman SH-2G Super Seasprites and 5 Westland Sea King helicopters available for shipborne tasks, besides 9 Aérospatiale Gazelles for coastal reconnaissance. For a possible replacement the AS565 MBe Panther anti-submarine warfare (ASW) that Airbus Helicopters is selling to Indonesia looks to be an interesting option.
However, the cheapest solution for the Egyptian Air Force and Navy would be to commission one of the three Seasprites that are held in reserve. But the FREMM frigate purchase might just mean a break for the Egyptian military to replace the Sea Kings, giving Airbus Helicopters new possibilities.
In light of the search for Air Asia flight QZ8501 that went missing on 30 December 2014, it has come to light that the Indonesian Navy lacks sufficient capability to detect objects under water. But fact is, the Indonesian military has already been acting on this prior to the airliner crash. The naval capabilities are getting a boost.
Airbus Helicopters will provide the Indonesian Navy (TNI-AL) with eleven AS565 MBe Panther anti-submarine warfare (ASW) choppers, as Airheadsfly.com already reported in November. They will be adapted and adjusted with indigenous and own-selected foreign hardware installed by Indonesia’s PTDI. According to PTDI the mission equipment will include active sonar (L-3 Ocean System’s HELRAS) and the possibility to launch torpedoes. Especially the first will come of handy when trying to find objects underneath the surface of the sea.
The Indonesian Navy has to cover 5.9 million square kilometers of water, its economic zone included. That’s a huge bowl of water to go fishing for anything. Slowly improving its options TNI-AL already got three Airbus/PTDI CN235 Persuader maritime patrol aircraft, but has a wish for many more as the Air Force might need to deploy its C-130s it has available during peace time to assist in scanning the waters on other tasks when there is a crisis.
The new Airbus Helicopters will certainly make matters a bit easier for the Indonesian Navy. All 11 new machines are planned to have entered service in 2017 and are the first dedicated ASW versions of the type sold by Airbus to any customer.
This week, Indonesian and Airbus Helicopters representatives shook hands more than once during the Indo Defence 2014 trade show. The Indonesian Navy purchased 11 AS565 Panther helicopters while the Indonesian Army accepted the first of 12 Ecureuil/Fennec light attack helicopters. Not enough? In France, the first Indonesian Air Force EC725 was handed over. Big Indonesian business for Airbus Helicopters.
The eleven AS565 helicopters should be delivered within three years. Mission equipment include the Helicopter Long-Range Active Sonar (HELRAS) dipping sonar and torpedo launching system – providing a truly effective mission system for operations from land bases and ships. The Panther helicopters are meant for anti-submarine warfare missions.
Fennec The Indonesian Army’s 12 Ecureuil/Fennec light attack helicopters should all be delivered by 2016. The order comprises six single-engine and six twin-engine versions. Machine guns and rocket launchers will be installed by PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI) at its in-country facilities in Bandung.
Finally, on 6 November the first of six Indonesian Air Force EC725 combat search and rescue (CSAR) helicopters was handed over at Airbus Helicopters’ facility in Marignane, France. An order for ten more EC725s is on the cards . The type will significantly enhance the Indonesian military’s CSAR capabilities,
The Indonesian Air Force has been a long-time operator of both the AS332 Super Puma and SA330 Puma rotorcraft, which were license-produced by PTDI since over 30 years ago.