The Mexican Navy has received the first of ten AS565 MBe Panther helicopters it purchased from Airbus in 2014.
Airbus said three other units would be delivered before the end of the year and the remaining six by early 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 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.”
The improved AS565 MBe is equipped with two Safran Arriel 2N engines, which enable it to achieve a top speed of 278 km/h and a range of 780 kilometers. It also boasts a new main gearbox, new tail rotor and a 4-axis autopilot that reduces crew workload.
According to Airbus, Mexican AS565 MBe Panthers fulfill NATO’s regulatory requirements in performing 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.
“Naval Aviation carries out its rescue missions in the most demanding operating conditions, and we are grateful for its renewed confidence in our helicopters” said Mesrob Karalekian, Airbus Helicopters’ Vice-President for Latin America. “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.”
Airbus further said that the Mexican Navy was the first operator in the world to receive the new version of the multi-role, medium-class military rotorcraft.