Last year, the Royal Netherlands Air Force deployed one of its NH Industries NH90s for the first time aboard a navy vessel, during anti-piracy operation Atalanta in the Gulf of Aden.
After an inspection conducted following the mission, it was concluded that the amount of wear and tear and corrosion to the helicopter was much higher than anticipated. The same problems were noted on another aircraft deployed to the Caribbean.
Assisted by the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory, the air force has come to the preliminary conclusion that the problems seem to be caused by design and assembly failures, and incomplete maintenance instructions. A further investigation is being conducted, with the results expected to be made public in late April.
NH Industries has acknowledged the problems and started its own investigation into possible solutions. The company expects to be able to present its first temporary modifications by the end of March, consisting of technical improvements and a corrosion prevention programme. Further improvements should follow later in the year, based on the results of additional studies.
Information about the Dutch corrosion issue has also been shared with the NATO helicopter management agency and other NH90 partner countries. France has also reported two cases of corrosion.
Meanwhile, Italy has recently started naval operations with its NFH-variant aircraft.