Airbus Helicopters delivered the first of seven H135 P3H ‘Nival’ light utility helicopters to the Spanish Navy on October 26, marking a key milestone for the service as it continues in its push to modernise its rotary-wing capabilities.
Dubbed the ‘Nival’ by the Spanish Navy, the helicopter (HE.26-35A/‘10-301’) is the first of seven H135 P3Hs that will eventually join the service’s 12 Escuadrilla (Squadron) at Naval Station Rota in Cádiz over the next two years. Following the delivery of the second H135 P3H – which is currently scheduled to occur on November 30 – the Spanish Navy’s initial two ‘Nivals’ will both be flown to Rota on December 11. In the six weeks leading up to the type’s arrival at Rota, the two helicopters will be used to train air and ground crews from 12 Escuadrilla at Airbus Helicopters’ facilities in Albacete, Spain.
After the first two H135 P3Hs arrive at Rota, the Spanish Navy will shift its focus to completing the type’s initial qualification aboard an offshore patrol vessel (OPV) in the first half of 2024. As per current plans, the ‘Nival’ fleet is expected to achieve Initial Operational Capability (IOC) by the end of 2024. The H135 will serve as a replacement for the Spanish Navy’s now-retired fleet of Hughes 500M (369M) light helicopters.
The Spanish Navy’s H135 P3Hs are being delivered complete with exclusive modifications to enable shipborne operations, such as pressurised fuel filling; manually folding main rotor blades; reinforced anti-corrosion treatment and an external floatation system. In addition, the aircraft will come equipped with a night-vision goggle (NVG) capability, as well as a barycentric hook, auxiliary fuel tanks, fast-roping system, side crane, electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) – or FLIR – camera systems, an all-weather surface radar and a medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) kit.