NH90: Europe’s Medium Helicopter Gets New Order Despite Issues
March 7/19: Belgium Safran Helicopters introduced the Belgian Air Force as its newest customer of the Expert Link, video assistance service. The Expert Link allows the customer to connect, through a secure, live video feed, with Safran Helicopter Engines experts to facilitate technical diagnosis or guide them through a maintenance task. The service was launched last year. Based on a proven video assistance application provided by Librestream, Expert link is available at two service levels. Essential, where Safran Helicopter Engines provides remote technical diagnosis and real-time interactive visual assistance, and Premium adds hands-free support on scheduled tasks using borescopes or smart glasses. The Belgian Air Force works together with Royal Netherlands Air Force for the support of the RTM322 engine. It will benefit from the Premium level of the new Expert Link service for the engine maintenance of its NH90 fleet. The NHIndustries NH90 is a medium-sized, twin-engine, multi-role military helicopter developed in response of NATO requirements for battlefield helicopters, which could also be operated in naval environments. In 2007, The NATO Helicopter Management Agency signed contract with NHIndustries to supply Belgium with a total of ten NH90 helicopters.
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 – 2019
2015 – 2016
FY 2003 – 2004
2002 and Earlier
Additional Readings & Sources
Background: NH90 – core equipment.
News & Views
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