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Airbus eyes India market for Panther MBe helicopters

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on October 19, 2016

Airbus Helicopters has delivered its first AS565 MBe Panther helicopter to the Mexican Navy. The next potential market for the Panther MBe appears to be India, where its name is being proposed for a Naval Utility Helicopter (NUH) programme.

The Mexican Navy recently took delivery of the first of ten AS565 MBe Panther helicopters it purchased in 2014, receiving the new version of the multi-role, medium class military rotorcraft. The Mexican Navy will receive three other units before the end of the year, and the remaining six by early 2018.

The helicopters that combine new and proven technologies 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. Airbus Helicopters is a division of the Airbus Group.

In 2015, Airbus Helicopters generated revenues of €6.8 billion. This July, Airbus Helicopters awarded a contract to Mahindra Aerostructures to make airframe parts for the AS565 MBe Panther. Airbus Helicopters and Mahindra Group are proposing the Panther for India’s NUH programme.

After seven years of protracted delays in acquiring the NUH, the defence ministry is said to have selected domestic companies with their foreign partners for over 100 light utility helicopters, in a deal expected to be over $2.5 billion.

Sources said since the NUH would need the Indian Navy to play a vital role in tackling piracy in the Indian Ocean region. The NUH should be capable of deploying at least one light weight anti-submarine warfare torpedo.

Airbus has been proposing the Panther helicopter for the NUH programme. The parts for the Airbus Helicopter and Mahindra contract will be produced at the Mahindra facility in Bengaluru, and shipped directly to the Airbus Helicopter production line in Marignane, France, where they would be integrated with the rest of the airframe assembly, forming a critical part of the Panthers sold worldwide.

The deal has ensured that Mahindra Aerostructures became the first Indian company to receive a direct manufacturing contract from Airbus Helicopters as a Tier-1 supplier. The Indian firm is expected to gradually emerge as the global single source supplier to Airbus Helicopters for these parts.

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Published on October 19, 2016
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