The French Navy’s new Caiman Marine helicopters (NH90) standard one configuration has been formally inducted into operational service at the Lanveoc Poulmic naval aviation base, France.

France had ordered 61 NH90 aircraft, of which 27 are the naval version NFH (naval frigate helicopter), with the remaining 34 designated as the army version TTH (tactical transport helicopter).

The Caiman is designed to perform search and rescue, maritime patrol, vertical replenishment, troop transport, medical evacuation and amphibious support operations.

The NFH’s mission equipment display includes FLASH sonar, MU90 advanced lightweight torpedo, MARTE MK2 S medium-range anti-ship missile, harpoon deck grid and SAMAHE securing and traversing equipment.

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The NH90 features a deck-lock system, deck-traversing system, automatic blade and tail folding system, enabling the aircraft to operate from small frigates, in day and night, as well as in difficult weather conditions.

The helicopters will be permanently embarked on Forbin and Chevalier Paul air defence frigates as well as on the future class of FREMM multimission frigates, the Mistral-Class BPC ships and on transport landing craft (TCD).

The NH90, capable of carrying anti-submarine torpedoes, air-to-surface missiles and air-to-air missiles, will replace the Lynx and the Super Frelon helicopters to perform rescue and anti-terrorism, anti-ship and anti-submarine roles.

The French Navy is scheduled to receive additional 23 NH90 Caimans by 2020, equipped with a rear ramp, which will be based at NAS Hyères and NAS Lanveoc, the Ministry of Defence said.

The NHI-built medium sized, multirole military helicopters have also been selected by Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Portugal armed forces.

NH Industries (NHI) is a joint venture between AgustaWestland, Eurocopter, Eurocopter Deutschland and Stork Fokker.