NH90: Europe’s Medium Helicopter Gets New Order Despite Issues
June 7/18: Belgian debut One of Belgium’s NH-90 transport helicopter has reportedly carried out its first operational mission in Mali. The NH-90 emerged from a requirement that created a NATO helicopter development and procurement agency in 1992. The nearest equivalent would be Sikorsky’s popular Black Hawk family, but the NH-90 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 NH-90 a popular global competitor. The NH-90 TTH base variant for land and air forces can carry between 12-20 troops and can load about 5,500 pounds. The NH-90 Fame MEDEVAC variant adds 2 intensive care bays for treating wounded personnel, on-board equipment, and seats for the medical team. Belgium nation has currently two NH-90s deployed in Mali in support of the United Nations peacekeeping mission. They became operational in March and will be used to transport wounded to specialized emergency stations. Initial deployment is four months, but this can be extended.
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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