The French armed forces ministry announced on Monday a new contract to help the performance of the NH90 military helicopter, just days after Norway said it would axe its fleet.
The French government said the new contract was aimed at addressing a problem regarding a shortage of materials for the helicopter, which is developed by a consortium between Airbus, Italian company Leonardo and Fokker.
Norway said last week that it would return the NH90 military helicopters it ordered from the NHIndustries consortium because they are either unreliable or were delivered late.
FROM THE FRENCH MINISTRY OF ARMED FORCES:
Signing of the new operational support contract for the NH90 helicopter: improving the availability of the French and German fleets while strengthening cooperation with partner nations
The NAHEMA (NATO Helicopter Management Agency) signed on May 23 on behalf of France and Germany, with the NH Industries consortium (composed of Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo and Fokker), the new operational support contract for the NH90, a performance-based service contract.
The NH90 has been a "combat-proven" helicopter for several years, which has already proven its high added value in external operations for the Army and the French Navy during deployments on combat ships for the fight against underwater.
However, the NH90 has also suffered from spare parts shortages in recent years, resulting in largely insufficient operational availability.
Objective of this new contract: that the armies immediately have spare parts for maintenance and repairs. This is to meet the requirements of operational availability.
To sustainably increase the operational availability of the NH90 fleet, a first stage of work was carried out in 2020 by NAHEMA, the General Armament Directorate (DGA) and the Aeronautical Maintenance Directorate (DMAé) for the French armies, and the NH Industries consortium. The team of experts formed then extended the support contract initially designed around French needs, to operational support adapted to all partner nations using NH90 helicopters. In an extremely short but intensive period of time, the experts have thus transcribed all the complexity of the logistics into a long-term contract (three times five years) with a target of 50% availability from the start of 2023.
First of all, the supply of spare parts will now be the responsibility of industry. This includes the material planning of manufacturing, storage based on needs and the respect of delivery times in the warehouses of the units of each of the armies concerned, as well as industrial repairs carried out at Airbus Helicopters. Industry experts will also be distributed among the units to facilitate technical exchanges and maintenance forecasts. Then, the duration of maintenance visits will evolve according to clear commitments to reduce the time devoted to this task. Finally, a performance incentive process has been established to encourage manufacturers to exceed availability targets. NH Industries, and Airbus Helicopters in particular, are committed to achieving the fixed availability rate and flight hours targets, required and guaranteed in this new NH90 operational support contract.
This contract is the first step towards more effective joint support, for the benefit of all the partner nations of the NHS90 programme. France and Germany will be the first to apply it. Other nations have already expressed their intention to join them in the medium term, at the same time strengthening cooperation between all participants in the NH90 program.
Developed as part of a European cooperation program bringing together Germany, Belgium, France, Italy and the Netherlands, the NH90 helicopter is available in two versions: the TTH (Tactical Transport Helicopter) for missions support to land forces, and the NFH (NATO Frigate Helicopter) for maritime rescue and anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare missions. He has since been chosen by nine other countries (Australia, Spain, Finland, Greece, Norway, New Zealand, Oman, Qatar and Sweden). A total of 597 NH90 helicopters have been ordered and more than 460 delivered.