The Mexican Navy took delivery of the first of ten AS565 MBe Panther helicopters on Wednesday from Airbus Helicopters, the company said Thursday.

Mexico originally purchased these helicopters in 2014 and, with the delivery, is becoming the first global customer to receive the newest version of the Panther. The Mexican Navy is set to receive three more units before the end of the year, with the remaining six planned to be delivered by early 2018.

A Mexican Navy AS565 MBe Panther helicopters. Photo: Airbus Helicopters.
A Mexican Navy AS565 MBe Panther helicopters. Photo: Airbus Helicopters.

Mexico plans to have its navy operate the helicopters in the Gulf of Mexico and on the Pacific coast. The Panthers will perform missions including search and rescue (SAR), disaster relief transportation and evacuation, drug enforcement, and coastal protection.

The AS565 MBe is equipped with two Safran Arriel 2N engines that give it a top speed of nearly 173 mph and a range of almost 485 miles. The helicopter also has a new main gearbox, a latest-generation tail rotor and a 4-axis autopilot that reduces crew workload and makes demanding missions like SAR easier to perform, Airbus said.

Airbus highlighted this model of AS565 MBe Panthers also fulfill NATO’s regulatory requirements in performing landing on moving ships 24 hours a day, so they are able to operate across Mexico’s territorial waters. The sale’s equipment suite also includes a main and tail-rotor blade folding system, a deck-lock harpoon, and an emergency flotation system.

Vice Adm. Jose Maria García Macedo noted that the Meixcan Navy’s first Panther helicopters came into service a decade ago.

“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 on board, 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,” he said in a statement.

 “Naval Aviation carries out its rescue missions in the most demanding operating conditions, and we are grateful for its renewed confidence in our helicopters,” Mesrob Karalekian, Airbus Helicopters’ vice president for Latin America, added.

“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.”