German procurement agency, BWB, has doubled its initial requirement for NH90 military transport helicopters and delayed entry into service by a year to 2004.

While the increase still needs German parliamentary approval, the move is good news for NH Industries ahead of a major decision by the four NH90 nations at the end of the year on industrialisation and procurement of the first batch of helicopters.

Germany's Ministry of Defence declines to comment on why it has doubled its first batch order from 67 to 134 helicopters for the army and air force, but it is understood that up to 25 aircraft are now required for combat search and rescue. There is also an "urgent need" to replace ageing Bell UH-1Ds.

Germany has reduced its overall requirement for NH90s by 24, to a total of 215, although the numbers to be ordered in future batches remains subject to defence budget decisions that have yet to be made.

NH Industries is holding the BWB to its original contractual delivery date of 2003, but the procurement service is to delay service entry by a year to save money on training and other start-up costs. Germany, which was to be the first to receive the aircraft, will take delivery in the same year as Italy. France takes the first of 27 (navy) machines in 2005, while the Netherlands has postponed the arrival of its first aircraft until 2007. This leaves the total first batch procurement at 214 machines, worth around 5 billion euros ($5.3 billion), including tooling and production start-up costs.

The final cost will not be known until negotiations on logistics support are finalised. The total planned purchase now stands at 595 aircraft, against an original requirement for 647.

Source: Flight International