The Bulgarian Navy has finally taken delivery of the first of three Panther helicopters at the Chayka naval helicopter base near the Black Sea city of Varna, Bulgaria.

According to Sofia News Agency, the delivery follows the recent agreement between the Bulgarian Defence Ministry and Eurocopter to half the number of helicopters in the deal from six to three.

The €358m deal was signed in January 2005 to procure 12 Cougar and six Panther helicopters for the Bulgarian Air Force and Navy respectively.

The Panther helicopters will also be used for various tasks such as search and rescue missions, sea border monitoring, humanitarian and anti-piracy operations and anti-terrorist actions.

The multipurpose maritime aircraft is designed to carry torpedoes, a 20mm gun, an EO/IR payload and a search and rescue radar.

The navy is expected to receive the remaining two helicopters before the end of this year.