Persistent problems

This first appeared as a Comment in the 1 July issue of Flight International

Complexity was built into the setup of NH Industries from day one. Its three-company structure, its six production facilities and its offset-driven supply chain were all likely to pose problems together. And that was before the helicopter’s 13 customers were somehow ­allowed to order 26 distinct versions of the rotorcraft.
 Unsurprising, then, that this recipe for chaos and muddle produced just that. Delays and unsatisfied customers were features of the programme’s early years. 
The NH90 entered service in 2006 and it is only now, some eight years later, that the consortium has moved to address the issue and simplify its offering.  
But NHI is not alone in this. The Eurofighter consortium with its multiple production and assembly facilities is similarly dogged by inefficiency. The solution for both programmes would be to rationalise the number of assembly sites.
However, as with all military procurements, politics reigns supreme. Ask any of the founder nations if they would like to reduce workshare in the name of efficiency and the response is easy to predict.  
But unless this fundamental issue common to all multi-national aircraft acquisitions is solved, then the same problems will keep manifesting themselves.
They say madness is repeating the same action but expecting a different outcome. What chance of Europe’s leaders ever discovering a modicum of sanity?

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