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NH-90 Caiman NFH competing with MH-60 SeaHawk to replace Lynx helicopters of South Korean Navy.

| Naval News Navy 2024

A question posed by Laurent Lagneau in Opex360, will the sky eventually clear for the NH-90 helicopter of the European consortium NHIndustries, after the availability issues that some users (French, Belgian, etc.) have regularly complained about, and the setbacks experienced in Australia and Norway, where these two countries decided to prematurely retire their NH-90s and replace them with Sikorsky UH-60/MH-60 helicopters?
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 French Navy NH90 NFH helicopter assigned to the frigate Provence (D652) (Picture source: U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David Flewellyn)

Shortly after the announcement of the first flight of the NH-90 SeaTiger for the German Navy, which has ordered 31 units, the Dutch Ministry of Defense confirmed a relatively ambitious mid-life upgrade for the 19 NH-90 NFH (Nato Frigate Helicopter) used by its naval forces, to keep them in service for another fifteen years.

Finally, on December 29th, South Korea approved a 2 billion euro purchase project to replace the Westland Lynx helicopters used by the South Korean Navy since the early 1990s for anti-submarine warfare missions. Two potential candidates are in the running: the NH-90 NFH and the MH-60 Seahawk.

According to DAPA, the South Korean agency dedicated to defense programs, the successors to the Lynx helicopters should enhance the anti-submarine and anti-surface capabilities of the navy. They also need to address the threat posed by ballistic missiles that could be launched from North Korean submarines, as Pyongyang has modified at least one old "Romeo" submarine from the Soviet era for this purpose.

NHIndustries NH90 Caiman

The NHIndustries NH90 is a European medium-sized, twin-engine, multi-role military helicopter. It was developed in response to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) requirements for a battlefield helicopter which would also be capable of being operated in naval environments. The NH90 was developed and is manufactured by NHIndustries, a collaborative company owned by Airbus Helicopters (formally Eurocopter) and Leonardo (formerly AgustaWestland) and Fokker Aerostructures. The first prototype conducted its maiden flight in December 1995; the type first entered operational service in 2007. It is an advanced but high-maintenance demanding military helicopter employed by a dozen countries.

The NH90 is the first production helicopter to feature entirely fly-by-wire flight controls. There are two main variants: the Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH) for army use and the navalised NATO Frigate Helicopter (NFH); each customer typically has various alterations and customizations made to their own NH90 fleets, such as different weapons, sensors, and cabin arrangements, to meet their specific requirements. In addition, local construction of airframes was accommodated in many cases, giving participants in the program a chance to develop experience in construction.

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