NH Industries has handed over the Netherlands' first NH90 naval frigate helicopter in the "meaningful operational capability" (MOC) configuration, and will soon also start deliveries to three more of its customers for the type.
"We will make the first delivery to the French navy within the next couple of weeks, followed by the Norwegian navy after the summer break and the Italian navy before year-end," says NHI managing director Domenico Vaccari.
Speaking at NHI partner company AgustaWestland's Vergiate site near Milan on 21 April, Vaccari confirmed that 24 helicopters will be delivered within the next two years in the MOC standard: seven each to France and the Netherlands; six to Norway and four to Italy.
The MOC configuration lacks some functionality from the NH90's full tactical navigation, weapons and embarked operating capabilities, which will be available in 2012. The interim standard will be used to support training activities, and to validate the aircraft's suitability for missions including search and rescue.
The Netherlands had been due to receive its first NH90 in 2007, but the project has been the subject of lengthy delays.
Defence Materiel Organisation NH90 programme manager Col Jan Verhulst says its seven MOC-standard aircraft will be followed by five full operational capability models. These will perform anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare tasks, and be followed by another eight aircraft configured for multirole duties.
Meanwhile, NHI expects to later this year agree with the NATO Helicopter Management Agency the final configuration for the NH90 tactical transport helicopter's full operational capability version.
Deliveries will start early next year, and follow 44 aircraft already handed over in the initial operating capability and IOC-plus standards.
AgustaWestland will from mid-year move its final assembly line for the NH90 from Vergiate to a formerly Aeronavali-controlled site near Venice Tessera airport.
Chief executive Giuseppe Orsi says the investment of up to €20 million ($26.3 million) will enable the company to increase its delivery rate from 13 aircraft to 20 a year. Its current order backlog is for 150 NH90s for Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal.