The Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF)’s NH90 helicopter procurement programme marked a major milestone last week with first flights performed in Italy and France.
The first NH90 NATO frigate helicopter (NFH), assembled at Leonardo’s Venice Tessera facility in Italy, and the first NH90 tactical troop transport (TTH) over-land aircraft, assembled at Airbus Helicopters’ Marignane site in France, took to the air on 15th and 18th of December respectively. The flights allowed crews to evaluate general handling and basic systems and the helicopters performed as expected.
Qatar signed a contract for the purchase of 28 NH90 military helicopters during DIMDEX 2018. The contract was for 16 NH90 TTHs for land operations and 12 NH90 NFHs for naval missions, and also include a comprehensive support, maintenance & training services package and associated infrastructure. The procurement programme has the potential to be extended in the future with the addition of 6 + 6 units in a mixture of TTH and NFH variants
Italy’s Leonardo is prime contractor for the overall programme and is also responsible for the final assembly and delivery of the 12 NH90 NFH helicopters from its Venice Tessera facility. The company is also supplying simulators, training aids and an extensive maintenance support and training services package for aircrews and maintenance technicians. Leonardo is providing, contributing to or supporting the integration of various avionics and sensor payloads, including the Leonardo LEOSS-T HD electro-optical system, HD Mission Video Recorder, Automatic Identification System (AIS), tactical video link and Full HD display for cabin consoles. Airbus Helicopters is responsible for carrying out the final assembly of the 16 NH90 TTH aircraft.
Acceptance of the first batch of NH90s by the Qatar Emiri Air Force is scheduled to start before the end of 2021, with the last helicopter planned to be delivered in 2025.
“We’re extremely pleased to celebrate this important achievement as we continue to work to deliver this programme. The NH90 is set to provide the Qatar Ministry of Defence, an important and longstanding customer, with outstanding operational capabilities suitable for a range of missions. Together with our industrial partners, we’re committed to completing and introducing this essential defence and security enabler for our customer,” said Gian Piero Cutillo, Leonardo Helicopters MD.
The twin-engine, medium-size NH90 helicopter program is managed by the consortium NHIndustries, a company owned by Airbus Helicopters (62.5%), Leonardo (32%), and Fokker (5.5%).
The largest military helicopter programme in Europe, the NH90 is the optimal choice for modern operations thanks to its fully composite airframe with a large cabin, its excellent power-to-weight ratio and its wide range of role equipment. It features a quadruplex fly-by-wire flight control system for reduced pilot workload and enhanced flight handling characteristics.
The NH90 is available in two main variants: one specified for naval operations, the NH90 NFH (NATO Frigate Helicopter) and the TTH (Tactical Transport Helicopter) for land based operations.
As of today, around 430 NH90 helicopters, a mixture of both NFH and TTH variants, are in service worldwide. Aircraft on operations have logged over 270,000 flight hours in a wide range of weather and environmental conditions, over land and sea.