Norway beginning to consider alternatives to 'much-delayed' NH90
The Norwegian Ministry of Defence has indicated that it may be looking at alternatives to deal with the delays to its NH90 procurement.
In a statement on the Norwegian Ministry of Defence website, state secretary for defence, Roger Ingebrigtsen, said he was 'very concerned' that the Norwegian Coast Guard (Kystvakt) was now down to just three helicopters capable of flying.
This 'means only one operational helicopter at all times flying out with the coast guard', he said.
Currently, the role of coast guard helicopter is conducted by the Westland-built Lynx helicopters operating from Norwegian Coast Guard ships. However, these aircraft have used up much of their remaining airframe life and had been due for replacement by the NH90 between 2005 and 2008. The NH90's late arrival means the Norwegian government is now exploring alternatives.
'It is of great importance that the coast guard is able to maintain the level of monitoring and control, and enforcement of Norwegian law and administrative responsibilities. In this context, a helicopter on board the vessels is an important resource to maintain the level in the performance of coast guard duties,' said Ingebrigtsen.
The Norwegian government accepts that the NH90 is considerably more capable than the Lynx and is able to boost the mission-effectiveness of coast guard vessels at sea, but the delays have caused concern.
'The NH90 is greatly delayed, and I am very concerned about this situation. We are therefore obliged to consider what are the options to ensure that the coast guard helicopter has the capacity that we depend on. We will shortly have to decide how we solve the challenges of lack of supply of NH90.' he added.
In the meantime, the Norwegian government is pushing ahead with its All-Weather Search and Rescue Helicopter (NAWSARH) programme to replacing the long-serving Sea King.
On 11 July, the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security, which is running the project, has issued the invitation to tender documents to the prequalified candidates, including Eurocopter with the EC225, NHIndustries with the NH90, Sikorsky with the S-92 and AgustaWestland with the AW101. The deadline for the submission of these documents by the companies is 18 December.
Source: By Tony Osborne in London Shephard Rotorhub News - 20 July 2012
Photo: The Norwegian NH Industries NH90 Helicopter (Photo by NH Industries)