The first full-scale conversion course of five French Navy helicopter pilots graduated on 17 January at Lanvéoc-Poulmic Air Base in a ceremony that confirms that the fleet of four leased Airbus Helicopters Dauphin N3s is now fully up to speed.
The four helicopters, owned by NHV France, have been introduced to temporarily replace the outdated Aerospatiale Alouette IIIs in service with 22 Squadron until the Airbus Helicopters H160M Guépard enters service in 2028.
"In 2019 the four Dauphins have flown more than 2,000 hours," Rear-Admiral Guillaume Goutay, commander of the French Navy's air arm, Aéronavale, told Jane's.
"A trial course of two pilots had already graduated in 2019 but the ceremony held last week clearly shows that the Dauphins are now firmly in service. They clearly push us into modernity: they are fitted with state-of-the-art instrument panels with multifunction displays and are fitted with two turbines, like all [other] helicopters in [French naval] frontline service," he said.
"Another obvious advantage is that they are very similar to the other Dauphins and Panthers in service with Flottille 35F and 36F. This means that the young pilots coming out of training will be fully operational on their new mount in a shorter amount of time, without a requirement for a conversion course."
The French Navy has decided to further expand the number of Dauphins in service by leasing an extra 12 aircraft from Héli-Union, Rear Adm Goutay noted. The additional aircraft will enable the service to retire the Alouette III and operate a more modern type offering better payload and range.
"The contract was signed in December 2019 and the first helicopter will be delivered in late 2020/early 2021 to Flottille 35F, in Hyères," he said. "The 12 Dauphins are planned to be equally spread between 35F and 34F, based in Lanvéoc-Poulmic.
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