NH Industries (NHI) is hopeful that it can finally secure a firm order from Qatar this year for both variants of its NH90 helicopter.

Doha four years ago signed a tentative agreement with the three-way consortium for 22 examples of the 11t-class rotorcraft: 12 TTH troop transports and 10 NFH maritime helicopters.

Despite spending billions of dollars on defence procurement in recent years, notably on fighter aircraft, a confirmed deal for the NH90 has remained stubbornly elusive.

But with Qatar's biennial Dimdex defence exhibition taking place in March this year, NHI is hopeful that the contract will be finalised shortly. "We are still working with the Qatari customer to close the contract," says NHI president Vincent Dubrule, "it is still very active."

Dubrule is also confident that Spain will place a follow-on order by the end of 2018 for an additional 23 examples of the TTH.

Madrid had initially committed to a 45-strong fleet of the helicopters, before financial pressures forced to it reduce its order to 22 units.

If both the deals with Qatar and Spain are finalised, it would take total orders for the NH90 to 560 aircraft.

Last year, NHI - a partnership between Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo and Fokker Technologies - handed over 40 helicopters, says Dubrule, taking total deliveries for the programme to 345.

2017's total included the first NFH in a final operating configuration (FOC) for the Royal Norwegian Air Force.

Oslo has had a troubled relationship with the NH90, at one point threatening to cancel its 14-unit order and repeatedly expressing its displeasure with delivery delays.

Four more FOC helicopters will be delivered this year, says Dubrule, with the remainder following in 2019. Norway's first six NH90s, handed over in an initial operating configuration, will also be upgraded to the higher standard.

Dubrule denies recent speculation that Oslo is looking to renegotiate the terms of its contract for the helicopters. However, the manufacturer is looking bolster support for Noway's fleet to improve "in-service satisfaction".

Source: FlightGlobal.com