Eurocopter has sweetened its Australian naval helicopter offer with a pledge for in-country manufacture and support of an NH90 order by its Australian Aerospace subsidiary in Brisbane.
The European company is thought to the underdog in the competition against the Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk for at least 24 naval combat helicopters to replace the Royal Australian Navy's Sikorsky S-70B-2 Seahawks.
But Eurocopter is stressing the NH90's multirole capability, fly-by-wire control and low-corrosion full-composite design, which Australian Aerospace chief executive Jens Goennemann says is an advantage for shipborne aircraft.
With Australian frigates carrying one helicopter, and sometimes two, Goennemann points out that an NH90's combat equipment can be removed within 2h to allow it to transport up to 16 passengers.
© Australian Department of Defence
The Royal Australian Navy is already acquiring six MRH90 transports
There would also be some commonality between the NH90 and the 46 MRH90 military transports ordered by Australia, including six for its navy. The first four MRH90s were built in Europe, but the remainder are being assembled at Australian Aerospace, along with most of the Australian army's Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopters.
As part of its sales campaign, Eurocopter borrowed a NH90 from the Italian navy and had it shipped to Australia in an Antonov An-124. The helicopter is performing demonstration flights and on 26 January participated in Australia Day celebrations above Sydney harbour.
Detailing the Australian Aerospace role, Goennemann says the Eurocopter unit would "in partnership with Australian industry, also undertake in Australia maintenance support services at operational bases".
Goennemann says opportunities for Australian industry would also include producing composite components for Eurocopter’s global supply chain, and providing sonar, radar and acoustics technologies for the NH90. Other roles could cover maintenance and support activities, the development of ground training equipment and the final assembly of the Eurotorp MU90 torpedo and MBDA’s Marte Mk2/S anti-ship missile.