NH90: TTH & NFH
November 26/20: Germany The budget committee of the Bundestag, the German parliament, has approved funding for the German Navy’s new NH90 Sea Tiger frigate helicopter and tank ammunition, as well as for the upgrade of DM2A4 torpedoes and the Bundeswehr’s IT wide area network (WAN). The German Ministry of Defense announced on its website that it had approved $3.2 billion in funding for 31 Sea Tigers, accessories, spare parts, and training. Starting in 2025, the helicopters will replace the German Navy’s Sea Lynx Mk88A frigate helicopters dating from the 1980s. The German MoD said the Sea Tiger would be the Bundeswehr’s only multirole helicopter, providing close protection for frigates, armed with torpedoes and missiles for anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare and conducting transport and search and rescue (SAR) missions.
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.
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