Airbus Helicopters begins flight tests of NH90 helicopter special forces variant

Airbus Helicopters

Airbus Helicopters has commenced the flight test campaign for the NHIndustries NH90 Standard 2 prototype, a new configuration tailored for the French Army Light Aviation (ALAT)’s special forces operations.  

The NH90 is a twin-engine military transport helicopter developed in partnership between France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. NHIndustries regroups Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters Division, and Fokker Technologies.  

In October 2020, the French Armament General Directorate (DGA) contracted NHIndustries to develop a “Special Forces” variant (NH90 FS). The French Ministry for Armed Forces has ordered 18 NH90s in this configuration. Per the DGA schedule, flight testing will continue through the end of 2024.  

The Standard 2 configuration introduces several enhancements, including the Safran Euroflir 410 electro-optical system, a new digital map generator, provisions for a third crew member, and enlarged rear sliding windows to accommodate self-protection guns.  

Additionally, the prototype is equipped for future integration of the Distributed Aperture System or DAS and a new generation Helmet Mounted Sight Digital Display (HMSD-DD), enhancing the helicopter’s capabilities in challenging conditions.  

The first deliveries to the 4th Special Forces Helicopter Regiment of the ALAT are expected by 2025. 

In April 2021, NHIndustries chose to equip the NH90 FS with the TopOwl Digital Display helmet developed by Thales, which offers increased situational awareness to the pilot, especially in extreme environmental conditions such as sand, snow, fog, or during the night. 

On June 13, 2024, NHI and the NATO Helicopter Management Agency (NAHEMA) officially signed a contract to develop and qualify the NH90 Block 1 upgrade, also known as Software Release 3, for both naval and land-based variants of the helicopter.   

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