Through the NATO Helicopter Management Agency, France and Germany signed a new contract with NHIndustries to better support the support of the NH90 helicopter fleet.
The NH90 is a twin-engine military transport helicopter resulting from a partnership between France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. NHIndustries regroups Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters Division, and Fokker Technologies.
Thought it proved valuable to the French Army and Navy, “the NH90 has also suffered from spare parts shortages in recent years, resulting in largely insufficient operational availability,” the French procurement and technology agency (DGA) said in a press release published on June 13, 2022.
With this new agreement, the supply of spare parts will be the responsibility of NHIndustries.
“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,” the DGA explained. “This contract is the first step towards a more effective common support, for the benefit of all the partner nations of the NH90 program.”
Tackling the availability issue
In 2015, the French armed forces, specifically the Navy, had reported an alarmingly low availability rate for its fleet of NH90s. This was mainly due to corrosion and maintenance problems traced back to “design faults and errors” that made the helicopter sensitive to saltwater.
And visibly, the issue is still current. In January 2022, Monique Legrand-Larroche, Director of aircraft maintenance of the French General Staff reported that only seven of the 27 NH90 “Caiman” delivered to the French Navy were available.
The announcement comes days after the Norwegian Defense Ministry disclosed its intention to break a contract for 14 NH90 military transport helicopters and return the eight operational aircraft it had already received. The ministry cited delivery delays and availability problems due to a lack of spare parts as the main reason behind this decision.
NHIndustries said it was “extremely disappointed” by the Norwegian Defense Ministry’s decision to terminate its NH90 contract, adding it considered the cancelation to be “legally groundless.”