LONDON — The Norwegian Ministry of Defense says NHIndustries is unlikely to meet contractual demands to deliver urgently needed naval helicopters to the country’s coast guard.
Under the contract, NHIndustries — the joint venture of, and Fokker — should deliver four NH90 helicopters to the Norwegian coast guard by the end of 2012. A second aircraft was handed over to the Norwegian Ministry of Defense’s Logistic Organization on Nov. 28, but according to State Secretary Eirik Øwre Thorshaug, a number of concerns about the program remain. “There have been many quality issues to be solved, also with the second helicopter,” Thorshaug said in a statement to Aviation Week.
Norway wants the NH90s to replace the country’s aging fleet of Westland Lynx helicopters that operate from coast guard ships. The new NH90s will also operate from the Nansen-class frigates.
Norway made its concerns felt back in July when former State Secretary for Defense Roger Ingebrigtsen highlighted concerns about the long-serving Lynx helicopters, of which only three were capable of flying.
“The NH90 is greatly delayed, and I am very concerned about this situation,” he said at the time. “We are therefore obliged to consider what options there are to ensure that the coast guard helicopter has the capacity that we depend on. We will shortly have to decide how we solve the challenges of lack of supply of NH90.”
The Lynx fleet has now used up much of its remaining airframe life and should have been replaced by the NH90 between 2005 and 2008. But a four-year delay has forced the Norwegians to examine alternatives. Thorshaug confirmed that the ministry is assessing whether or not to do a service life time extension for two or four of the Lynx helicopters.
Meanwhile, to preserve the remaining Lynx flying hours, the coast guard has decided to use civilian helicopters to start the initial training of personnel for helicopter operations from the frigates.
Norway still wants the NH90, and the defense ministry reportedly has been told by NHIndustries that it is doing what it can to increase delivery speed. However, the company has so far not responded to requests for comment.