The governments of France, Italy, Germany, and The Netherlands gave their go-ahead for the production launch of the NH90 helicopter programme on June 8, 2000, during the ILA 2000 airshow in Berlin. This latest-technology helicopter has been jointly developed by Agusta (Italy), Eurocopter (France and Germany) and Stork Fokker (The Netherlands) under the leadership of NHIndustries and the four-nation governmental agency NAHEMA (NATO HElicopter Management Agency). NH90 is the biggest helicopter programme ever launched in Europe.
During an official ceremony at ILA, a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) covering a global intention of acquiring 595 helicopters and a global commitment for the industrialisation and the production of 366 NH90 helicopters was signed by Jean-Yves Helmer, Délégué Général pour l’Armement (France), State Secretary Dr. Walther Stützle (Germany), Onorevole Dott. Domenico Minniti, Sottosegretario alla Difesa (Italy) and Dr. Jan Fledderus, Directeur Generaal Materieel (The Netherlands). This will be followed by the signature of a contract for the Production Investment and the Production (PI/P) of a 1st batch of helicopters by Helmuth Heumann, General Manager of NAHEMA, and Philippe Stuckelberger, General Manager of NHIndustries. The total value of the contract amounts to 6.6 billion Euro.
Twenty five percent of the Production Investment is being self-financed by the four national industries.
Italy orders 60 TTH (Tactical Transport Helicopter) for the Army, 46 NFH (NATO Frigate Helicopter) plus 10 TTH for the Navy; France will receive 27 NFH for their naval forces; Germany receives 50 TTH for the Army and 30 TTH for the Air Force, of which 23 are foreseen for Combat Search and Rescue missions following a dedicated further contracted development; The Netherlands will receive 20 NFH.
The first batch in both the TTH and the NFH versions, encompasses a total of 298 helicopters, including 54 TTH as option for Germany - 30 for their Army and 24 for their Air Force - and 1 TTH as option for Italy for their Air Force.
Deliveries will start on 2003 for the Tactical Transport version.
Production shares of the four countries will be 31.25% for France (Eurocopter), 32% for Italy (Agusta), 31.25% for Germany (Eurocopter Deutschland) and 5.5% for The Netherlands (Stork Fokker). NHIndustries is responsible for the programme management, marketing, sales, and after sales support.
The NH90 is a latest technology, twin-engine aircraft in the 10 tons class. It has been designed from the outset as a weapon system. Launched in 1990 with the signature of a MoU for the development phase, the NH90 is based on the toughest requirements jointly defined by the armed forces of France, Italy, Germany, and The Netherlands.
The transport (TTH) and the naval (NFH) variants share a common basic helicopter in a modular design. Dedicated, specialised mission equipment packages allow for maximum flexibility in operations. Special emphasis has been given to features such as safety, reliability, availability, maintainability, testability, and supportability. The diamond shape of all composite (corrosion free) airframe combines optimal aerodynamics with low detectability. Optimised man-machine interface significantly reduces pilot and crew workload. The NH90 superior handling qualities are enhanced by a fly-by-wire flight control system, making it the first production helicopter in the world to feature this advanced technology.
Two types of FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control) equipped engines can be installed in this twin engine helicopter: the Rolls Royce-Turbomeca RTM-322-01/9 or the Fiat Avio-GE-MTU GE-T700-T6E1.
Despite its compact external dimensions designed to cope with the limitations of the hangars on frigates, the NH90 offers a uniquely spacious cabin in its class, with a usable height of 1.58m, a minimum usable width of 2.00m and 4.80m length. Two large sliding doors allow easy loading and unloading operations, to be complemented by an optional rear ramp (1.78 wide and 1.58 long).
The NH90 has a tricycle type, retractable landing gear designed to absorb a high quantity of energy. This, together with crashworthy seats, ensures crew survivability in case of a crash
Due to its unique design and inherent system flexibility, the NH90 covers a wide variety of stringent mission requirements.
The TTH will serve as a tactical transport helicopter for personnel and materials (internal and external), for Search and Rescue missions (SAR and Combat SAR), heliborne operations, medevac, special operations, electronic warfare, airborne command post, parachuting, flight training, and VIP transport.
NFH missions include anti submarine warfare, anti surface unit warfare, vertical replenishment, SAR, troop transport and mine laying.
The NH90 with its multi-mission capability and now on order by four european nations represents a major step forward in terms of rationalisation, standardisation of equipment, within the armed forces, and interoperability in NATO and United Nations missions.