The French Navy has exhibited the new mk2 version of its highly successful Panther helicopter to the public as part of DGA-organised pre-Paris Air Show press tour at Hyeres Naval Air Station in South-East France.
The mk2 comes with major upgrades such as the new airborne electro-optical system and EuroFLIR 410 EO-IR, defpro.com reports.
Initially, the helicopter upgrade will have an improved identification and the communication system that provides a wide spectrum of frequencies, tactical anti-jamming radio as well as integration of GPS.
A flight management system (FMS) and a wide-ranging radar, missile and laser warning self-protection system (SPS) with a flare dispenser, jointly built by Eurocopter, Thales, EADS and MBDA will be a part of the second stage upgrade.
The first mk2 prototype is expected to be handed over for flight-testing by the end of 2009, after which it will be incorporated for service, according to DGA officials.
In addition, SPS-equipped mk2s may enter service between 2012 and 2014.
The new version helps the pilot in getting images, in better manoeuvring, target positioning, and also allows information sharing with the tactical operator.
Panther is expected to be further upgraded by the integration of new lightweight torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, according to navy officials.
The navy's fleet of 16 Panthers was upgraded by French Eurocopter in 2003, in a contract valued at €80m.