Airbus Helicopters AS565 MBe Panther
visits Airbus Helicopters at Marignane, France
Vayu visited Airbus Helicopters at Marignane, France in early December 2017 for a detailed tour of Airbus Helicopters facilities and had intensive interactive sessions with senior company executives. Focus was on the AS565 MBe Panther multirole helicopter which is being presented as “the perfect candidate for the Indian Navy’s NUH programme” !
In early December 2017, select Indian media were invited to Airbus Helicopter’ facilities in Marignane, France for a two-day interactive session with senior company executives on the latest developments in their company as well as a status update of their plans for India’s helicopter requirements. As a bonus, they interacted with Mexican Navy’s Admiral Jose Maria Garcia Macedo and team who were being handed, in person, keys to their 10th and final AS565 MBe helicopter (see lead image).
The theme of the tour can be summarised as being on the AS565 MBe helicopter and its attributes.
The AS565 MBe, also known as the Panther, is the state-of-the-art multi-role helicopter that was designed for a multitude of naval and coast guard missions such as maritime surveillance, search and rescue, casualty evacuation, offshore patrolling and counter-terrorism. It exudes a sleek appearance from nose to tail and the cockpit allows for excellent visibility through the glazed forward fuselage and the modern avionics include an automatic flight control and flight management system. The AS565 MBe combines new and proven technologies to offer “more value to operators,” and is equipped with two Safran Arriel 2N engines, which enhance its performance in hot & high conditions. It also boasts a new main gearbox, a latestgeneration tail rotor and a 4-axis autopilot that reduces crew workload and makes the most demanding missions easier to perform. The main cabin can be rapidly reconfigured to conduct various roles and the Panther can be armed with several different kind of munitions and armaments, depending on the mission.
The helicopter performs a wide variety of roles. In its anti-surface unit warfare role, the AS565 MBe is highly effective in warfare missions, including over-the-horizon targeting for ships with long-range anti-ship missiles. By acting as the ship’s principal weapon system it can search, classify, shadow and strike with precision with stable hovering capabilities. In its anti-submarine warfare avatar, with an endurance of four hours and its capability to carry up to two torpedoes / Depth Charges, the AS565 MBe significantly multiples a surface ship’s ability to conduct Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) missions. It has a radius of action of up to 130 nm with one torpedo and up to a 110 nm with two torpedoes. For search and rescue (SAR) it has a radius of action of 110 nm, including
30 minutes on station, carries 2 pilots and 2 aircrew and can hoist 2 casualties. It is well suited for law enforcement/anti-piracy tasks as well. Being fast and quiet, the AS565 MBe is a highly cost-effective asset for all policing roles in exclusive economic zones or areas of national interest. The helicopter has a multihour endurance at high speeds, and can be configured for snipers and rapid boarding parties with weapons such as cabin-mounted machine guns.
Some 250 Panthers are operated in more than 20 countries by military customers, including 100 in service with the US Coast Guard. Recently the Panther has gained more contracts in Indonesia and Mexico. There was a lot of discussion on the Airbus/ Mahindra tie- up as well as the Indian Navy’s (as well as other branches of the Indian Armed Forces) utility helicopter requirements. “Airbus Helicopters awarded a contract to Mahindra Aerostructures to make airframe parts for the AS565 MBe Panther helicopter and these parts will be produced at the Mahindra facility in Bengaluru. They will be shipped directly to the Airbus Helicopter production line in Marignane, France where they will be integrated with the rest of the airframe assembly and will form a critical part of Panthers sold worldwide. This contract positions Mahindra Aerostructures as the first Indian company to receive a direct manufacturing contract from Airbus Helicopters as a Tier 1 supplier. “We are playing an active role in the development of a helicopter-focused Indian industrial ecosystem, and are embedding Indian suppliers into our global supply chain,” stated Fabrice Cagnat, Director, Make-in-India, Airbus Helicopters. “The contract will allow us to qualify Mahindra Aerostructures as a Tier 1 supplier, establish a manufacturing relationship with them on the Panther, and also lay the ground work for rapid acceleration in terms of industrialising production in India, in case we are selected for the Naval Utility Helicopter programme,” he added.
Airbus Helicopters and Mahindra Defence are in the process of forming a joint venture to compete in India’s military helicopter programmes such as the Naval Utility Helicopter, the Naval Multi-Role Helicopter and the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Helicopter. The AS565 MBe Panther is competing in the Naval Utility Helicopter programme, the Indian Navy’s RFP calling for some 111 NUHs with upto 15% of the contract for NUHs being in fly away condition or some 16 helicopters.
“In case the Indian Government selects the Panther, Airbus Helicopters will establish India as a global hub for Panther production in partnership with Mahindra Defence and would firmly embed Mahindra Group in the Airbus Helicopters’ global supply chain and bind the two companies in a longterm ‘Make-in-India’ partnership. Transfer of Technology is a key aspect of the project/ proposal and Airbus Helicopters is in a very good position to fulfil it. We want India to be the ‘ Centre of Excellence for the Panther’. We have a lot of experience doing what we plan to do in India: Helibras of Brazil is a super example of this model and a good parallel”, emphasised Fabrice Cagnat.