Air Transportation: NH90 Fails All Over

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June 2, 2010: Australia has received eight of the 50 NH90 helicopters it ordered, and is not happy with the aircraft's performance. The overall complaint is poor reliability, design and durability. Many more spare parts have to be stocked than was originally planned. There have been long waits to get needed spares from the manufacturer (NHIndustries). Called the MRH90 in Australian service, the experience was similar to what the Germans encountered with their NH90s.

The German Army conducted an evaluation of their new NH-90 helicopters, and were not pleased. Their conclusion was that, for combat missions, another model helicopter should be used whenever possible. A particular problem was the lack of ground clearance. The NH-90 can't land on a piece of ground with any obstacles higher than 16 cm (6.4 inches). That makes many battlefield landing zones problematic. That assumes you can even get on a NH-90 and find a seat. The passenger seats cannot hold more than 110 kg (242 pounds). Combat equipment for German troops weighs 25 kg (55 pounds), meaning any soldier weighing more than 85 kg (187) has to take stuff off, put it on the floor, than quickly put it back on before exiting. Then there's the floor, it's not very sturdy, and combat troops using the helicopter for a short while, cause damage that takes the helicopter out of action for repairs. Worse, there is the rear ramp. It cannot support troops carrying all their equipment, making it useless for rapid exits of combat troops. There is not enough room in the passenger compartment for door gunners. There are no strap downs for larger weapons, like portable rocket launchers or anti-aircraft missiles. The passenger compartment also does not allow for carrying cargo and passengers at the same time. The winch is not sturdy enough for commandoes to perform fast roping operations. And so on. The Germans were not pleased with the NH-90.

Germany has 122 NH-90s on order, at a cost of over $50 million each. The ten ton NH-90 can carry 21 troops or twelve casualties on stretchers, plus the crew of two. It first flew in 1995. The manufacturer is a consortium of French, German, Dutch and Italian firms, and has promised to fix all the problems. The Germans and Australians noted that, when it worked, the NH90 worked well.

 

 


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