NH90 Helicopter

Current Force > NH90 Helicopter 

INTRODUCTION

CURRENT FORCE

EQUIPMENT SURVEY 

 NH-90 Helicopter (8+1) NZ$771 million

Photo:RNZAF

The Ministry of Defence's latest announcement has been the acquisition of 8 EADS NH90 helicopters (plus a spare for parts) to replace the antiquated Bell UH1H Iroquois.  The NH90 has the same size and performance specs as the Iroquois (which despite a design age of 30 years is still sold, the lastest version being the UH-1Y). It is a much better helicopter than the Bell boasting all the latest mod-cons for military pilots. It has earned the Dutch division of EADS a small fortune with an extensive order book. It is, indeed, a very popular military helicopter.

Helicopters are generally useful items of equipment and the medium helicopter will fulfil many of the Primary Missions requirements. The principal difficulty with medium helicopters however is their deployability outside New Zealand. They require considerable disassembly to be carried aboard  a C-130 Hercules and no more than four will fit aboard HMNZS Canterbury, the new Multi-Role Vessel - which will almost certainly take a long time to load and get into position. The NH90 is also limited to a lift capability of 2 tonnes which reduces the systems utility for civil emergencies where significant lift capacities are required. 

The main criticism of the choice of the NH90 must be the extraordinary (outrageous) price tag. NZ$771 million even at an exchange rate of 57 cents NZ to the US dollar (which is by no means the current value) means a unit cost of US$54 million each! According to this report the estimated unit cost of the machines is actually closer to 20 million Euro (2001 prices). This means that we are paying US$20 million per unit for post 2001 inflation or capitalised support services - not counting the whole spare unit bought for parts!

Another criticism is the lack of analysis as to the specification. It seems we bought them because the Australians were buying them too. Like the Iroquois the NH90 and the SH70 the helicopter is built around the mission of transporting troops and equipment at night and in all weathers. But one has to ask is it too big to be small and too small to be big. That is its too big and obvious to be a reconnaissance/intervention machine and not big enough to carry a lot of heavier equipment. In terms of this study's Primary missions the NH-90 meets many requirements but there are better combinations of aircraft which should have been considered.

The 2006 Vote Defence for operating the helicopters is $103 million

Manufacturers Website: NH90

Comparison Purchase: Portugal bought 12 larger and more powerful EH101 Search and Rescue helicopters for 130 million Euros (NZ$232 million) in 2005

Australian Example: The Australians are buying 46 NH90 but will have the benefit of bigger ships to deploy them with.

Mission

Value for Money

M1: Pacific Security

B: Deployable across Pacific, good capacity but no armament

M2: International Peacekeeping

C: Useful helicopter

M3: Terrorist Seige

C: Useful for inserting special forces

M4: Device Disposal

not applicable

B1: Biohazard

C: Good carrying capacity although a bit inflexible

F1: Fisheries Surveillance

C: A naval helicopter originally so capable, though limited like all helicopters

F2: Fisheries Intervention

B: Potentially good although lacks a very long range

C1: Civil Emergency

C: Potentially handy, especially for night flying but lacks capacity

C2: Pacific Emergency

D: Costly and slow to deploy

C3: Medical Team

not applicable

R1: Antarctic Research Programme

not applicable

R2: Pacific Hydrographical Research

not applicable