The German Navy's first NH90 Sea Lion naval multi-role helicopter has successfully completed its maiden flight on 8 December this year at Airbus Helicopters' plant in Donauwörth, Germany.

In 2015, Germany’s unified armed forces Bundeswehr placed an order for 18 of these helicopters, designed to replace the navy's existing fleet of Westland Sea King Mk41.

The Sea Lion is fitted with sensors and improved navigation and communications equipment, and is also capable of operating in civil air space.

"We are proud to be delivering this state-of-the-art naval helicopter to the German Armed Forces on time."

The aircraft also features upgraded military friend / foe identification system.

Airbus Helicopters Deutschland CEO Wolfgang Schoder said: “We are proud to be delivering this state-of-the-art naval helicopter to the German Armed Forces on time.”

Delivery of NH90 Sea Lions is expected to begin at the end of 2019, with the last due to go into service in 2022.

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The navy will use the helicopters in search-and-rescue (SAR) missions, maritime reconnaissance, special forces missions as well as personnel and materiel transportation tasks.

The second NH90 Sea Lion that is awaiting qualification testing is currently at the final assembly stage, with plans to begin series production at Donauwörth in 2017.

Manufactured using advanced, high-strength composite materials, the NH90 Sea Lion shell is said to offer optimum protection for the crew.

Currently, five nations are already using the naval NH90 Nato frigate helicopter.

Image: NH90 Sea Lion in flight. Photo: © Airbus Group.