The Norwegian MoD is also demanding a refund of the money spent on the NH90 programme.
The Norwegian government has decided to immediately halt all operations with the NH90 helicopters and to terminate the contract with the manufacturer NHIndustries. In a statement released by the Ministry of Defence on June 10, 2022, delays, errors and time-consuming maintenance are mentioned as the cause of this abrupt decision that put an end to the programme after 20 years.
“Regrettably we have reached the conclusion that no matter how many hours our technicians work, and how many parts we order, it will never make the NH90 capable of to meeting the requirements of the Norwegian Armed Forces”, said Norwegian Minister of Defence, Mr. Bjørn Arild Gram. “Based on a joint recommendation by the Armed Forces and associated departments and agencies, the Norwegian Government has therefore decided to end the introduction of the NH90 and has authorized the Norwegian Defence Material Agency to terminate the contract”.
The Norwegian Defence Material Agency has subsequently notified NHIndustries about the contract termination and is now preparing to return the NH90s along with any spares and equipment received. At the same time, the agency will also request a full refund from NHI, which will include the approximately NOK five billion (USD 522.5 million) it has paid under the contract, in addition to interest and other expenses.
“We have made repeated attempts at resolving the problems related to the NH90 in cooperation with NHI, but more than 20 years after the contract was signed, we still don’t have helicopters capable of performing the missions for which they were bought, and without NHI being able to present us with any realistic solutions”, said Gro Jære, Director General of the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency.
The NH90 was developed in the mid-1990s by NHIndustries, a partnership between Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters and Fokker Technologies. Norway decided to join the programme in 2001, with the order of 14 helicopters for Coast Guard and Anti-Submarine Warfare duties originally slated for delivery by the end of 2008. However, only eight helicopters have so far been delivered in a fully operational configuration, which were expected to provide 3,900 flight hours annually but in recent years it has averaged less than a fifth of that value, about 700 hours, according to the MoD.
The decision to terminate the NH90 contract follows a comprehensive review of Norway’s maritime helicopter capabilities requested by the MoD, which concluded that, even with significant additional financial investments, it would not be possible to bring the performance and availability of the NH90 to a level that would meet Norwegian requirements.
NHIndustries did not take very well the news: “NHIndustries is extremely disappointed by the decision taken by the Norwegian Ministry of Defence and refutes the allegations being made against the NH90 as well as against the Company”, reads the statement. “NHIndustries was not offered the possibility to discuss the latest proposal made to improve the availability of the NH90 in Norway and to address the specific Norwegian requirements. NHI Industries considers this termination to be legally groundless”.
NHIndustries (@NHIndustriesSAS) has issued a strongly worded statement about #Norway‘s #NH90 decision, refuting the allegations made this morning, and claiming the termination to be “legally groundless.” pic.twitter.com/3ftKCHNIjG
— Tony Osborne (@Rotorfocus) June 10, 2022
The company also said that a total of 13 helicopters have already been delivered and the last one on order was ready for acceptance. In the meanwhile, the MoD will shortly begin the process of identifying an alternative maritime helicopter to fill the capability gap left by the NH90.
The situation is very reminiscent of what happened in Australia last year, when the Australian Defence Force has announced that it will retire its entire fleet of MRH90 Taipan helicopters a decade earlier than scheduled and replace them with UH-60M Black Hawks and MH-60R Seahawks. As for the Norwegian case, poor availability rates were among the causes that forced the retirement of the Australian NH90s.