Julian Moxon/PARIS

The four-nation NH90 helicopter has been given the final go-ahead for production and industrialisation following last minute delays caused by German political infighting.

The contract, signed on the 30 July by the Nato Management agency NAHEMA, NH Industries and the four partner governments (France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands), is worth c6.6 billion ($6.4 billion) and covers a first batch of 298 helicopters as part of a total requirement for 595. Partner nations will contribute 25% of production investment costs.

The deal was meant to have been signed at the Berlin air show last month but got caught up in political dispute between members of the German parliamentary defence budget committee.

The first NH90 will be delivered to Germany in early 2004 as part of its requirement for 50 tactical transport helicopters (TTH) for the army and a further 30 for the air force - 23 for combat search and rescue (CSAR) missions.

Italy has ordered 60 TTHs for the army and 10 more for the air force, with delivery beginning in 2004, plus 46 naval helicopters (NFH), with first delivery in 2005. France will receive the first of 27 NFHs in 2005 and the Netherlands the first of 20 NFHs in 2007.

The first batch also contains options for 54 TTHs for Germany and a single TTH for the Italian air force, which may be modified for CSAR. The contract will see most of the first batch delivered by 2010/11, although Italy, for example, will receive the last of its NH90s in 2017/18.

Orders for the second batch must, says NHI, be signed by 2007 if production line continuity and price is to be maintained.

NHI is now concentrating on exports and says it has answered a request for proposals (RFP) from Oman for up to 30 battlefield helicopters, and will bid for an expected requirement from Singapore for up to 12 NFHs. It is also in competition for the Nordic Standard Helicopter requirement.

Source: Flight International