The Spanish Navy’s H135 “Nival” completes its first phase of the Initial Naval Qualification Campaign. Rotor magazine climbs aboard the Maritime Action Ship (BAM) Meteoro to witness the success of the tests, day and night.


Last March, the first phase of entry into service was completed with the operational evaluation of the H135 “Nival1” of the Navy’s Twelfth Squadron, located at the Rota naval base (NAVSTA Rota). For several weeks, system tests were carried out, sensors were installed and take-offs and landings were performed on a Spanish Navy ship. These tests have made it possible to gather information on the behaviour of the H135 on a “Maritime Action Ship (BAM)”, both during the day and at night. The commissioning phase is now continuing and is scheduled to be completed in the second half of this year.

 “The H135, thanks to its limited logistical footprint, simplicity of maintenance and a more than adequate operational envelope, has demonstrated its ability to operate on board a vessel with the characteristics of an ocean patrol vessel,” said Fernando Mostaza, test pilot at Airbus Helicopters Spain. “A helicopter with these qualities makes it a particularly useful and ideal tool for this type of vessel, covering a wide range of missions that require a large number of flight hours at a reduced cost.

A new Airbus customer

The Navy took delivery of its first two H135s in the fourth quarter of 2023, making them the first Airbus helicopters in its fleet. In total, the Navy will eventually have seven units, which will join the Twelfth Aircraft Flotilla Squadron (FLOAN) over the next two years. 

The first two H135s flew to the Rota naval base last December 2023. Previously, during the weeks that the “Nival” helicopters remained in Albacete, the helicopters carried out training flights with the pilots of the Twelfth Squadron, as well as with the maintenance technicians—mechanics and avionics—to optimally prepare for entry into service

The H135 is equipped with the most advanced technologies available, including Airbus Helicopters’ Helionix and avionics. In addition to the 4-axis autopilot, the H135 offers an innovative cockpit layout for improved situational awareness. The H135’s simplicity, reliability and safety, coupled with its versatility, have made it the traininghelicopter of choice for many armed forces such as those of AustraliaGermany, Japan, the United Kingdom and, of course, Spain.

Tailor-made helicopters

“The Navy’s H135s incorporate unique modifications that enable them to operate on ships, such as pressure refuelling, manual folding of the main rotorreinforced anti-corrosion treatment and a float system. They also have a cabin compatible with night vision goggles, weather and surface radarelectro-optical systemrescue crane, barycentric hookauxiliary fuel tank, fast rope system and aero-evacuation kit (for MEDEVAC),” according to the Spanish Navy. 

“The H135 is an easy to fly and maintain light twin helicopter (the lowest DMC/DOC2 in this class) and will allow the Spanish Forces to add a new capability within the global 36 H135 fleet. The maintenance and training communality with all Spanish Forces help to reduce the costs of operations with a really multirole helicopter able to cover military and parapublic mission requirements,” explained Fernando Lombo, Managing Director Airbus Helicopters Spain. 

This fleet brings new capabilities to the Spanish Armed Forces in terms of military applications and interoperability, as this platform is also used by the Air Force and Army Aviation. The Spanish Navy is seeking to expand the further use of the Nivals in naval applications.

1. Nival is the name chosen by the Spanish Navy for their new H135. It is the Spanish translation of snowy owl.

2. DMC/DOC - Direct maintenance cost / Direct operational cost

Rotor magazine

Airbus Helicopters' customer magazine dedicated to the rotorcraft industry.