NH Industries (NHI) has received a contract worth over €600 million ($648 million) for software development work that will significantly enhance the capabilities of both the naval and troop transport variants of the NH90 military helicopter.

Signed by NHI and the NATO Helicopter Management Agency (NAHEMA), the Software Release 3 (SWR3) activity will be carried out on behalf of NH90 operators Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

Italy naval NH90-c-NH Industries

Source: NH Industries

Italian NH90s will be used for test and evaluation phase of upgrade

Through the upgrade, NH90s will receive a Link 22 data link – its first application on a helicopter – a new high-definition electro-optical system in the form of Leonardo’s LEOSS-T, an updated dipping sonar, improved navigation system, and the integration of additional weapons including the MBDA Marte ER anti-ship missile and Raytheon’s Mk54 torpedo.

The contact covers an initial development and qualification phase which will see flight tests take place from the Tessera, Italy facility of NHI consortium member Leonardo Helicopters using NH90s from the Italian army and navy.

A follow-on step, which has yet to be finalised, will see the roll-out of the enhancement across a fleet of up to 200 helicopters.

“This contract marks a significant step forward in our ongoing efforts to provide our armed forces with the most advanced and reliable equipment. SWR3 will undoubtedly further enhance the operational readiness and versatility of the NH90 helicopter,” says NAHEMA general manager Michael Kohlhaas.

NHI says the contract is the “launch of the NH90 Block 1 upgrade” as it works to extend the helicopter’s lifespan to up to 50 years. 

“The Block 1 programme will cover the next ten to fifteen years. Beyond that horizon, we are also planning the Block 2 upgrade that will define the future evolutions of the platform and ensure that it continues to meet the needs of the battlefield of tomorrow,” says Axel Aloccio, president of NHI and head of the NH90 programme at Airbus Helicopters.

NHI is consortium comprising Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters and GKN/Fokker. 

This story has been updated with additional information from the manufacturer.