20 years after ordering NH-90 military helicopters, Norway’s military is bursting with collar delays and shortages. They cancel the order, return the helicopters that have been delivered so far and demand the equivalent of almost half a billion euros in repayment.

In justification, the Norwegian military issued a damning certificate to the helicopter and its manufacturer. The military has regrettably concluded that no matter how many hours the technicians work, how many parts are ordered or how much money is invested, the helicopters “will never be able to meet the demands of the Norwegian Armed Forces”. The contract with the manufacturer consortium NHI (Nato Helicopter Industries) will therefore be canceled completely and the flights will be discontinued.

For the NHI manufacturer alliance with Airbus at the top with a 62.5 percent share and Leonardo (Italy) with a 32 percent share and Fokker (Netherlands) it is another low blow and image damage. Australia had already announced in December 2021 that it wanted to do without the model in the future because the operating costs were too high and the availability too low. The performance of the model is a “constant problem,” it said.

Australia wants to buy the US model Black Hawk instead. Other user states have also complained about defects in the military helicopter, which is almost 20 meters long and weighs around ten tons. The Netherlands, for example, reported corrosion problems on their models. Apparently Belgium also wants to do without the model.

Whether Norway’s particularly abrupt exit from the NH-90 program will ultimately end up in court remains to be seen. In a first statement, the NHI consortium expresses disappointment about the decision from Oslo and then rejects the allegations. “NH Industries considers this termination legally unfounded.”

Thirteen of fourteen helicopters have been delivered and the fourteenth is ready for acceptance, the industry said. But Norway’s military argues differently. It is criticized that after the order signed in 2001, a total of 14 copies for the coast guard and anti-submarine warfare were to be delivered by 2008. But to date, only eight models are available in fully operational condition.

The helicopter is also one of the problem models in the Bundeswehr. According to an overview of the large equipment presented at the end of 2021, only 19 percent of the Bundeswehr variant NH-90 NTH Sea Lion are operational.

The military industry blog augengeradeaus.net reports that the Navy recently refused to accept the 15th newly delivered machine because not only the radar showed errors, but above all the fuel smell in the cabin indicated possible leaks. A special service contract was even signed with the industry in May to eliminate supply bottlenecks in the Bundeswehr for the model and to reduce long maintenance times.

The Bundeswehr uses the helicopter in two versions for the army and navy: as a transport helicopter and as a NATO frigate helicopter, also for search and rescue operations. The Bundeswehr wants to present an NH-90 model at the upcoming Berlin Air Show (ILA) (June 22 to 26).

Industry experts see one reason for the NH-90 debacle in the great complexity of the various fields of application of the helicopter. The industrial structures with the ramified manufacturer consortium would not contribute to a quick solution to the problem either.

After the announced end of the European NH-90 helicopter, Norway is now looking for an alternative model. That could come from the US.

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