June 24, 2006:
Satisfied with the first twelve NH90 helicopters it bought (and will not receive until next year), Australia has ordered another 34, at a cost of $44 million each. The first twelve were bought to replace Vietnam war era UH-1s. The new lot will replace aging Sea Kings and Blackhawks. Delivery of the 34 helicopters will take place over the next nine years.
NH Industries, the European firm the makes the NH90, has been eating into the export market for American made Blackhawk transport helicopters. Over 500 NH90s have been sold so far, and often they beat out Blackhawk for sales. American armed forces currently use some 2,000 Blackhawks, and hundreds more have been sold to overseas customers.
The ten ton NH90 comes in transport and naval version (used for reconnaissance, anti-submarine and anti-ship missions.) The transport version can carry 21 troops or twelve casualties on stretchers, plus the crew of two. Powered by two engines, the NH90 has a top speed of 300 kilometers an hour and a maximum endurance of 5.5 hours. It first flew in 1995 and uses state of the art avionics and other components to justify it's $40 million+ dollar price tag.
NH Industries is a consortium of French, German, Dutch and Italian firms. The Blackhawk design is twenty years older than the NH90. Although the latest version of the Blackhawk is up to date technically, it is slightly smaller and lighter than the NH90, and can only carry eleven troops. Blackhawk max speed is 285 kilometers an hour and endurance is 2.1 hours. The NH90 has more powerful engines and larger fuel capacity, as well as being a bit larger. The big difference is in cost, with new NH90s more than twice as expensive as a new Blackhawk.