Airbus Helicopters delivered the last two of ten AS565MBe Panthers that it has produced for the Mexican Navy in a ceremony in Marseilles. In 2014, this service was the launch customer for the MBe version. Separately, Airbus Helicopters recently reported progress toward qualifying the weapons package that it has branded as “HForce,” on the smaller H145M helicopter.
“The arrival of the MBe Panther has enhanced the navy's aviation operational capabilities,” said Admiral Jose Maria Garcia Macedo, the Mexican navy’s general director of naval aviation. “We can use it in both maritime and land environments for a wide range of missions, including maritime SAR, disaster relief, external load operations, and even air ambulance.”
The MBe Panther is powered by two Safran Arriel 2N engines, which enhance its performance in hot and high conditions. It includes a new main gearbox; a latest-generation tail rotor; and a four-axis autopilot that reduces crew workload and makes the most demanding missions, such as SAR, easier to perform, according to Airbus. Additional equipment includes a cargo hook, a rescue hoist, a FLIR sensor for night-time rescue missions, and four stretchers for medical evacuation.
The HForce system that was recently tested for the first time on an H145M included guns (FN Herstal HMP400); unguided rockets (Thales FZ231); and cannons (Nexter NC621); as well as an electro-optical targeting system by Wescam (MX15) and a helmet-mounted sight display by Thales (Scorpion). The firing tests were conducted at Papa airbase in Hungary, with the cooperation of the Hungarian Ministry of Defence.
Airbus Helicopters said that the next steps to qualifying HForce on the H145M are the development testing of laser-guided rockets in Sweden before the end of this year and additional live-firing trials in summer 2018. Meanwhile, the company said that qualification of the core HForce system is on track for the end of this year, following an extensive flight-test campaign carried out on an H225M testbed.
According to Airbus Helicopters, HForce is designed to meet the requirements of defense agencies seeking light attack mission capabilities or a complement to their existing fleet of specialized attack helicopters. The company also intends to qualify the system on the H125M.