On 28 September, the Mexican Navy took delivery of the first of 10 AS565 MBe Panther helicopters it 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 early 2018, said manufacturer Airbus.
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, disaster relief transportation and evacuation, drug enforcement and coastal protection.
The AS565 MBe model features upgraded engines, a new main gearbox and a 4-axis autopilot that the manufacturer says will reduce crew workload and make demanding missions, such as SAR, easier to perform.
“The Mexican Navy’s first Panther helicopters came into service 10 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. Thanks to the state-of-the-art technology onboard, the new helicopters will enhance Naval Aviation’s operational and response capability, enabling us to carry out maritime safety missions both day and night, in any weather and in heavy seas.”
The design of Mexican Naval Aviation’s AS565 MBe Panthers fulfils 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, said Airbus.