The French Armament Procurement Agency (DGA) has awarded a contract to Eurocopter for two EC225 helicopters to be operated by the French Navy for search and rescue (SAR) missions off the coast of Brittany.

The helicopters will replace the navy’s aging Super Frelon helicopters and will be used until the first NH90 NFH helicopters enter navy service at the end of 2011.

The EC225 is a twin-engine helicopter with a maximum take-off weight of 11t, capable of rescuing ten people within a range of 300nm.

In addition, the EC225 features a unique automatic pilot and advanced modes specifically developed for SAR operations and offers the capability to adopt hover flight positions.

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The EC225 can be precisely positioned above a ship at sea down to an accuracy of 1m.

The helicopter also offers automatic engine failure controls during take-off, cruise flight or hoisting operations.

The helicopters are scheduled to be delivered in the first half of 2010 and will be assigned to the Lanvéoc naval air station in the Finistère region.