NH90: Europe’s Medium Helicopter Gets New Order Despite Issues
February 15/18: Sweden-High Costs Cause Shock! High operating costs may cause the Swedish military to ground nine of its NH90 Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH) fleet used for ground operations. Speaking on the issue, Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said the procurement had a long history and background of broken expectations, and that life-cycle and operating costs should have been investigated and controlled prior to this. A report by Swedish broadcaster Ekot reported that Defense Force Helicopter 14 costed an average 200,000 kroner (almost $25,000) per hour—by comparison, the US DoD costs UH-60 Black Hawks at about $4,500 per flight hour. Hultqvist added that the helicopter’s high costs will be investigated further before a final decision on whether the nine NH90s will have their flight hours cut or grounded completely. First ordered in 2001 Sweden’s Defense Helicopter Wing operates 18 NH90 TTHs, alongside 16 UH-60Ms, and 20 AW109s (eight of which designated for sea roles).
The NH90 emerged from a requirement that created a NATO helicopter development and procurement agency in 1992 and, at almost the same time, established NH Industries (62.5% EADS Eurocopter, 32.5% AgustaWestland, and 5% Stork Fokker) to build the hardware. The NATO Frigate Helicopter was originally developed to fit between light naval helicopters like AW’s Lynx or Eurocopter’s Panther, and medium-heavy naval helicopters like the European EH101. A quick look at the NFH design showed definite possibilities as a troop transport helicopter, however, and soon the NH90 project had branched into 2 versions, with more to follow.
The nearest equivalent would be Sikorsky’s popular H-60 Seahawk/ Black Hawk family, but the NH90 includes a set of innovative features that give it some distinguishing selling points. Its combination of corrosion-proofing, lower maintenance, greater troop or load capacity, and the flexibility offered by that rear ramp have made the NH90 a popular global competitor.
As many business people discover the hard way, however, success can be almost as dangerous as failure. NH Industries has had great difficulty ramping up production fast enough to meet promised deliveries, which has left several buyers upset. Certification and acceptance have also been slow, with very few NH90s in service over a decade after the first contracts were signed. Booked orders have actually been sliding backward over the last year, and currently stand at around 500 machines, on behalf of 14 nations.
The NH90 Platform(s)
NH90: The Competition
The NH90 Production Program
Contracts & Key Events
2016 – 2018
2015 – 2016
FY 2003 – 2004
2002 and Earlier
Additional Readings & Sources
Background: NH90 – core equipment.
News & Views
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