Belgium Orders up to 10 NH90s as Netherlands Complains
The Belgian Council of Ministers has formally decided to procure 10 NH90 helicopters, consisting of 8 firm orders (4 TTH troop transport and 4 NFH naval helicopters) plus 2 optional aircraft. The deal is reportedly worth EUR 292.5 million (currently about $400 million), a reduction from the EUR 351 million figures reported in previous negotiations. Belgian industry will receive industrial offsets as part of the arrangement from NIH Industries partners AgustaWestland (32%), Eurocopter (62.5%), and Stork Fokker (5.5%).
Belgium becomes the 14th country to order the NH90 (Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden), and the 6th country to join the NH90’s NAHEMO international program organization (France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal 2001, Belgium 2007). The NH90 has become the largest helicopter program ever launched in Europe, with firm orders now reaching 453 units plus 102 options.
There had been some question as to where the Belgian NH90s would serve, and how many there might be…
Back in January 2007, the deal was reportedly being blocked by the Flemish Socialist Party (SP.a), who favored privatizing Search and Rescue Operations and acquiring only the required helicopters for the navy. Johan Vande Lanotte (Chairman seaport Oostende, Chairman Flemish Socialist Party) was a prominently-mentioned figure, as only Noordzee Helicopters could take over SAR operations and they operate from the airport of Oostende.
With the full order going through, the NH-90 TTHs are to replace the SAR Sea Kings of the 40th SQDR based at Koksijde AB in Western Flanders.
The NH90 NFHs will replace the Belgian Navy’s Alouette helicopters. The new NH90 NFH helicopters will operate from the 2 Dutch M Class Frigates recently bought from the Netherlands; the HMS Karel Doorman was handed over to the Belgian Navy on March 29, 2006 and christened as F930 Leopold I (after the first Belgian King). The helicopter decks of both M Class frigates have been strengthened to accommodate the NH90.
NIH Industries says that “final negotiation steps are in progress with several other Defence Forces to secure contracts concerning 76 additional NH90, both in the Tactical Transport and Naval versions.” With that said, they might wish to address dissatisfaction among core NAHEMO members like the Netherlands, who have recently been angered by delivery delays, and offered complaints concerning the cockpit.
UPDATE: The deal was signed on June 19/07, at the 2007 Paris Air Show.
Additional Readings & Sources
- EADS release (July 19/07) – “NAHEMA signs with NHI for ten NH90 to Belgium”
- NH Industrie release (Dec 14/06) – Belgium Selects the NH90 Helicopter
- EADS release (Dec 13/06) – Belgium Selects the NH90 Helicopter
- DID thanks Benelux reader David Vandenberghe for his assistance in researching this article.