Julian Moxon/PARIS


The four-nation NH Industries (NHI) NH90 transport helicopter programme is facing further delay because of German budget uncertainties. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) for industrialisation and initial production of the NH90 was originally due to be signed at the Paris air show in June. Now it seems the signature may be delayed until the Berlin air show in May.

A source at NHI says: "We're waiting for clarification of the German position." The German Ministry of Defence, while confirming its commitment to the programme, says only that it hopes to sign the MoU "during 2000". Under the original NH90 schedule, Germany was to take delivery of its first helicopter in 2003, with Italy, while France and the Netherlands wanted their first machines in 2005 and 2007, respectively.

Germany is likely to wave the programme through, but there are continuing doubts as to the eventual number to be ordered. It has said it intends to buy an initial tranche of 134 helicopters, possibly followed by 85 more. This may change, however.

The delay comes as NHI and other contenders are to be sent the request for quotations for the Nordic Standard Helicopter Programme on 29 November (Flight International, 24-30 November). The programme brings together Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland under a single contract that will contain a requirement for 60-80 helicopters for delivery from 2003.

The Nordic countries will request pricing and programme proposals from contenders that include EH Industries, Kaman and Bell Helicopter Textron. NHI procurement and configuration manager Wouter Ritsma admits this is a "bit awkward" for the NH-90 bid, given Germany's continued failure to commit and the resulting lack of a programme.

He says that if there is a "really serious" delay to the NH90 industrialisation and production launch, "there is a hypothetical situation in which the four industrial partners may go ahead with part of the programme on their own".

Source: Flight International