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Norway terminates NH90 contract

By Glenn Sands | June 10, 2022

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 58 seconds.

Norway has ended its NH90 helicopter contract, citing manufacturer NHIndustries’ inability to find replacement components for critical systems on the helicopter. This included some components for the NH90’s anti-submarine warfare capability. Norway will now return all the helicopters and is demanding a full refund. 

“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,” said Defence Minister Bjørn Arild Gram in a press release announcing the move. “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.”

Following the statement, the Norwegian Defence Material Agency informed NHIndustries (NHI) that it was terminating the entire contract. The agency will begin preparation to return the helicopters, along with any spares and equipment received. Additionally, the agency is requesting a refund from NHI, which includes an estimated five billion kroner it has paid under the contract, along with any interest and other expenses. 

“We have made repeated attempts at resolving the problems related to the NH90 in cooperation with NHI, but after 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 real solutions,” said Gro Jære, director-general of the Norwegian Defence Material Agency.

Norway has announced the termination of its contract for the NH90. Photo Mats Grimsæth, Norwegian Armed Forces

Following the announcement, a statement from NHIndustries said: “We are extremely disappointed by the decision taken by the Norwegian Ministry of Defence and refute the allegations being made against the NH90 as well as the company. 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. 

“NHIndustries and its partners have been absolutely committed to addressing the concerns expressed and have brought the appropriate and tailored solutions to the table to meet the specific and unique Norwegian requirements. With 13 helicopters delivered out of 14, and the last example ready for acceptance, we were close to finalizing the main scope of the initial contract. NHIndustries considers this termination to be groundless.”

Norway’s acquisition of the NH90 began in 2001, with 14 helicopters for the Coast Guard and anti-submarine warfare duties with the expectation that all would be in service by late 2008. Currently, prior to the termination, only eight have been delivered in full operational configuration. The fleet was expected to fly 3,900 flight hours per year, but recently this was averaging around 700 hours.  

The Norwegian Ministry of Defence asked the Armed Forces, in cooperation with the Norwegian Defence Material Agency and the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, to conduct a full review of Norway’s maritime helicopter capabilities in February 2022. The review concluded that even with significant additional financial investments, Norway would not be able to bring the performance and availability of the NH90 to the level that would meet its operational requirements. 

“This is the right decision for the NH90 and our maritime helicopter capability, and in line with our recommendation,” said General Eirik Kristofferse, Norwegian Chief of Defence.

“I have been impressed by the efforts made by our organization and everyone who has worked so hard to make the NH90 deliver. This has not been a question of a lack of effort, creativity, and skill, but quite simply that we have received a helicopter that has not been able to deliver. Also, even though we are now moving on from the NH90, we still need the support of those who have been working on the helicopter. My priority now is therefore to take care of everyone who has worked on the NH90.”

Following the termination of the contract, Norwegian NH90 flight operations stopped, and any planned future missions have been cancelled.

Next for the Norwegian Ministry of Defence is to begin the selection process for an alternative maritime helicopter. “Norway continues to have a requirement for maritime helicopters, and it is, therefore, essential that we quickly begin preparations to fill the capability gap left by the NH90,” said Arild Gram. “We will consider several alternative approaches to meeting our operational requirements.”

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