As the Chief of the Naval Staff explains in the Mercator plan, the French Navy is a combat service, and must prepare for combat both in human and technical aspects.
It is in this spirit, and with the desire of improving its operational efficiency, that Naval Aviation has just validated the air transport of its NH90 Caiman Marine shipboard helicopter.
Like what is already a standard operating procedure for its Dauphin, Panther and Alouette helicopters, which are deployed overseas by air transport aboard A400M aircraft of the Air and Space Force, it is the turn of the bigger and heavier NH90 Caiman Marine helicopter to be able to board an XXL transport plane, the Antonov 124.
After the preliminary removal of rotor blades and radar, which is required to put the helicopter into the “air transport” configuration, the air transportability was validated after a loading exercise by the NH90 detachment of experts from the Centre d’Expérimentations Pratiques et de Réception de l’Aéronautique Navale (CEPA/10S).
This capability will make it possible, as necessary, to exchange shipboard helicopters by air transport over long distances, especially during long-duration missions of FREMM frigates, thus freeing the Navy from technical constraints that could reduce the operational efficiency of the FREMM / Caiman pair.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: In other words, the French Navy will now be able to recover or deploy NH90 by air transport with the An-124, which will prove especially useful if a helicopter needs to be replaced, or exchanged together with a relief crew, while a FREMM frigate is on a long-duration mission far away from France.)