The German Navy has formally inducted its NH90 Sea Lion naval multi-role helicopter during a ceremony at the Nordholz Naval Airbase on June 25, the service announced.
The formal commissioning and the start of flight operations had already taken place at the beginning of the month. The naval inspector, Vice Admiral Andreas Krause, had formally declared the navy ready for takeover on May 27.
At the ceremony at in Nordholz, Krause said: “Today is a good day because we welcome one of the most modern and versatile helicopters in the naval aviation family. The Sea Lion flies and from today it belongs to the German Navy. Despite initial headwinds and occasionally bad weather, we all did not let ourselves be taken off course and worked together towards a good result.”
NH90 Sea Lion is German Navy development of the NH90 NATO Frigate Helicopter (NFH), the ship-based variant of the NHIndustries NH90 medium twin multi-role military helicopter. NHIndustries is a collaborative company owned by Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo and Fokker Aerostructures.
The NH90 Sea Lion Naval Transport Helicopter (NTH) will replace the German Navy’s Sea King Mk41 helicopter. The latter has been in the service of the Navy for almost 50 years and is to be phased out gradually by 2023.
In total, 18 Sea Lions have been ordered for the German Navy, with three delivered. The deliveries are expected to be completed in 2022. The selection of the Sea Lion as the successor to the Sea King was made in March 2013 and the corresponding contract was signed in June 2015.
All 18 helicopters will belong to Naval Aviation Squadron 5 (MFG 5), and their home base will be the Naval Aviation Base on the North Sea coast near Cuxhaven.
The Sea Lion helicopter, which can transport up to 20 personnel, will be mainly used for Search and Rescue (SAR) missions as well as for the transportation of personnel and material. For SAR duties, the helicopter is equipped with a rescue winch and special medical equipment. The Sea Lion can be also used for transporting special forces soldiers.
The Sea Lion’s sensors include a 360-degree maritime surveillance radar, infrared and video cameras combined with a laser range finder, and sensors for enemy radars. A tactical console processes the sensor data and exchanges it with other ships and aircraft in the fleet. This equipment makes the versatile NTH to a reconnaissance helicopter.
The Sea Lion is also suitable for the use of boarding soldiers or special forces. The NTH can fly into a risk zone, and can be armed with heavy machine guns. The helicopter can be also equipped with decoys.
German Navy is also procuring another variant of the NH90 NFH helicopter named Sea Tiger, to succeed its 22 Sea Lynx Mk 88A ship-borne helicopters that have been in service since 1981. The Sea Tiger will be the Navy’s future helicopter for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface warfare (ASuW) missions. The first helicopters were ordered in 2019 with a potential total of up to 31.
The German Army is operating the Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH) variant of the NH90. With the delivery of 31 Sea Tigers to the Navy, Germany would become the largest NH90 user nation.
NH90 Sea Lion Technical Specifications:
+ Length: 19.6 m (with rotor)
+ Width: 4.6 m
+ Height: 5.9 m
+ Rotor diameter: 16.3 m
+ Max. Takeoff weight (MTOW): 11 tonnes
+ Engines: two Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 turboshaft engines producing 1,800 kW (2,400 hp) each.
+ Service ceiling: more than 6,000 m
+ Speed: 175 knots (324 kmph)
+ Weapons/defense systems: 12.7 mm heavy machine gun, two ELIPS decoy dispenser with chaff and flare.
+ Sensors: ENR maritime surveillance radar with ISAR imaging mode, tracking capacity: more than 150, electro-optical sensor (laser rangefinder, video and infrared cameras) an EK system DETE90i / A (electronic reconnaissance)
+ Crew: 3 to 4
+ Passengers: max. 20