Norway has cancelled its two-decade-old contract with a French manufacturer for NH90 helicopters and has grounded its entire fleet in a bold step denouncing the rotorcraft’s poor operational availability.
According to Defense Minister Bjrn Arild Gram, the Norwegian government will return the NH90 helicopters it has received so far and demands a full refund of the approximately 5 billion kroner ($525 million) it paid.
“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 meeting the requirements of the Norwegian Armed Forces,” Arild Gram said.
NHIndustries, a cooperation between European businesses Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters, and Fokker Technologies based in Aix-en-Provence, France, created the helicopter in the mid-1990s. Several countries use the plane.
According to the Norwegian Armed Forces, Norway bought 14 helicopters for the coast guard and anti-submarine warfare operations in 2001. They were supposed to be delivered by the end of 2008, but just eight have arrived ready to work.
“The fleet is currently required to provide 3,900 flight hours annually, but in recent years it has averaged only about 700 hours,” the Armed Forces said.
In a statement, NHIndustries claimed it was “extremely disappointed by the Norwegian Ministry of Defense’s decision and refuted the claims levelled against the NH90 as well as the firm.”
It also said it had not been allowed to debate its latest ideas and that the Norwegian contract cancellation was “legally groundless.”
The Norwegian Defense Ministry has stated that it will soon launch the search for a replacement marine helicopter.
The NH90 is a twin-engine helicopter created to meet NATO’s demands for a modern, medium-sized, multi-role military helicopter that could be used on both land and sea.
Even with extra financial investments, the performance and availability of the NH90 would not match the country’s requirements, according to a study of Norway’s marine helicopter capabilities requested by the Defense Ministry in February.