The Italian navy has followed other customers for NH Industries' NH90 helicopter by accepting a stepped approach for operating the NFH naval variant.
"We have recently approved the plan to accept a small batch of NFHs in the 'Step A', or meaningful operational capability [MOC] configuration, to speed introduction to service," says Fleet Air Arm Commander Rear Adm Paolo Treu. "The navy is planning to receive the first of four NFHs in the MOC configuration by next autumn, with the remaining deliveries to be completed by 2011."
The 5th Helicopter Group at Luni Naval Air Station near La Spezia will be the first unit to receive the type, which will replace its Agusta/Bell AB212s.
An initial cadre of pilots and maintainers will start training on the NH90 this month, with a consolidated syllabus to be ready by late 2010, says Cdr Paolo Gregoretti, head of the Naval Aviation Test and Evaluation Centre at Luni. NHI partner company AgustaWestland will provide initial training and support under the agreement.
The Italian navy will eventually receive 46 NH90s in the NFH configuration, plus 10 navalised tactical transports. Qualification of their General Electric/Avio T700/T61E1 engines should conclude in 2010, with deliveries of aircraft expected from mid-2011.