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Norway Perplexed What to Do With 'Nightmare Helicopters' After Decade's Delay

Sputnik News

17:20 25.01.2018

It took the first NH90 helicopter ordered by the Norwegian Navy over a decade to land in the Nordic country. The question is whether this reinforcement is still desired by the Norwegian Armed Forces, which have been considering declaring a breach of contract by the provider.

After over a decade of waiting, the first NH90 helicopter for the Norwegian Navy landed at Kjeller Airport in Akershus County 25 kilometers from Oslo, despite the Norwegian Armed Forces previously mulling termination of the contract.

The landing at Kjeller was delayed by half an hour, which is nothing compared to the dramatic delay in delivery, as the first NH90 was originally due in 2006.

"This is a big day. We have been working long and intensively to get the helicopter here," Brigadier Diederik Wilhelm Kolff, chief of air capacities at Norwegian Defense Materiel Agency told the Aftenposten daily.

In 2001, Norway ordered 14 NH90 pieces, eight for the Coast Guard and six for the Navy's frigates, with a price tag of NOK 7.2 billion ($900 million). This procurement has been described as a nightmare by Aftenposten. The Coast Guard, which apparently had more luck and received its first NH90 in 2009, has not been put into service yet and is still being tested.

The helicopter was previously found to underperform in terms of promised flight hours. Furthermore, despite the helicopter that landed at Kjeller being described as the "final version" it is still not certified for instrumental flights. Perpetual delays, coupled with technical issues sewed doubt at the Norwegian Defense Staff over whether the entire project is still in demand.

To add insult to injury, the NH90 was found to cost NOK 175,000 ($23,000) per flight hour, with total lifetime costs for the whole program totaling NOK 30 billion ($3.8 billion). By contrast, its competitor the Sikorsky Seahawk only costs NOK 34,000 ($4,300) per flight hour, Aftenposten reported.

Even if the Armed Forces were to choose to keep the recent addition, it would nevertheless need a four-year preparation period. In the meantime, a commission has been set up to consider the possibilities. One option is to scrap the entire contract, whereas another one to rent other helicopters while waiting for the NH90 to become fully operational, which apparently takes another while. Without helicopters, however, the Coast Guard is unable to effectively carry out fishing surveillance and the Navy's anti-submarine capacity is weakened.

The NH90 is a medium-sized, twin-engine, multi-role military helicopter, developed in response to NATO requirements for a battlefield helicopter, also capable operating in naval environments. The NH90 was developed and is manufactured by NHIndustries, a collaborative company, which is owned by Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo (formerly AgustaWestland) and Fokker Aerostructures.

With a maximum speed of 300 km/h and a capacity for 16 passengers, the NH90 has a flight time of somewhat over four hours.

Sputnik



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