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New French military order set to resolve NH90 issues

By Glenn Sands | June 13, 2022

Estimated reading time 4 minutes, 30 seconds.

Following the cancellation by Norway of their entire NH90 contract, the French government has announced a new contract for the helicopter to demonstrate its commitment to the program moving forward. 

The French government said the new contract would focus on resolving the issue of a spares shortage for the helicopter, which was one of the reasons for Norway axing its program.

A new order announced by the French government demonstrates its faith in the NH90 helicopter’s future. Photo NHIndustries

A press release from the French Ministry of Armed Forces cited: Signing of the new operational support contract for the NH90 helicopter; improving the availability of the French and German fleets while strengthening cooperation with partner nations

The NAHEMA (NATO Helicopter Management Agency) signed on May 23 on behalf of France and Germany, with the NH Industries consortium (composed of Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo, and Fokker), the new operational support contract for the NH90, a performance-based service contract.

The NH90 has been a “combat-proven” helicopter for several years, which has already proven its high added value in external operations for the Army and the French Navy during deployments on combat ships for the fight against underwater.

However, the NH90 has also suffered from spare parts shortages in recent years, resulting in largely insufficient operational availability.

The objective of this new contract: is that the armies immediately have spare parts for maintenance and repairs. This is to meet the requirements of operational availability.

To sustainably increase the operational availability of the NH90 fleet, the first stage of work was carried out in 2020 by NAHEMA, the General Armament Directorate (DGA) and the Aeronautical Maintenance Directorate (DMAé) for the French armies, and the NH Industries consortium. The team of experts formed then extended the support contract initially designed around French needs, for operational support adapted to all partner nations using NH90 helicopters. In an extremely short but intensive period, the experts have thus transcribed all the complexity of the logistics into a long-term contract (three times five years) with a target of 50 percent availability from the start of 2023.

First, the supply of spare parts will now be the industry’s responsibility. This includes the material planning of manufacturing, storage based on needs and the respect of delivery times in the warehouses of the units of each of the armies concerned, as well as industrial repairs carried out at Airbus Helicopters. Industry experts will also be distributed among the units to facilitate technical exchanges and maintenance forecasts. Then, the duration of maintenance visits will evolve according to clear commitments to reduce the time devoted to this task. Finally, a performance incentive process has been established to encourage manufacturers to exceed availability targets. NH Industries, and Airbus Helicopters, in particular, are committed to achieving the fixed availability rate and flight hours targets, required, and guaranteed in this new NH90 operational support contract.

This contract is the first step towards more effective joint support, for the benefit of all the partner nations of the NHS90 program. France and Germany will be the first to apply it. Other nations have already expressed their intention to join them in the medium term, at the same time strengthening cooperation between all participants in the NH90 program.

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