The already delayed introduction of the NH Industries NH90 maritime helicopter in the Netherlands has suffered a fresh setback, with the commander of its Defence Helicopter Command having reported worse-than-expected performance during initial activities with the type.
Dutch personnel have so far achieved only 50% of the intended flying hours using an initial four aircraft that have been delivered in a so-called "meaningful operational capability" standard. A fifth will arrive in November.
Issues relate mainly to maintenance support and availability of spare parts, prompting a fresh six-month delay for the NH90 to meet its first operational commitments, said Air Cdre Theo ten Haaf. He also identified the aircraft's radar as having failed to meet specifications while searching for small objects in high sea conditions.
Initial operating capability in the land-based search and rescue (SAR) role should be achieved in mid-2012, with the type also to be ready for embarked operations by the end of next year.
"We still have a long way to go," ten Haf said, but added: "It's a good aircraft, despite all the negative press. It will get there."
Operational test and evaluation activities for the SAR mission are almost complete, and ship helicopter operating limit trials have been conducted during October aboard the Royal Netherlands Navy vessel the Rotterdam, including using night-vision goggles.
Meanwhile, ten Haaf told Shephard's Heli-Power conference in Farnborough, UK, that the first of the Netherlands' six new Boeing CH-47F+ Chinook transport helicopters should be delivered at the end of this year, or during the first quarter of 2012.Qualification and verification testing with the new model has recently been completed, he said.
Three of the new Chinooks will be used at Gilze-Rijen air base in the Netherlands, with the others to support Dutch training activities at Fort Hood, Texas.