Final planning figures for the industrialisation phase of the four-nation NH90 military-helicopter programme, reveal that the programme has shrunk from the original 726 machines, to 647, with delays to the in-service date for the French Army to 2010.

The numbers, were given to NH Industries, in July by Nato NH90 management agency NAHEMA, but have only now been revealed publicly. They were supplied to NAHEMA so that production work-share could be determined.

Under the current time-scale, the industrialisation and production memorandum of understanding is due to be signed by the participating nations: France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, at the end of 1997, with the final contract covering production go-ahead in June 1998.

Under current planning, the first in-service NH90 will be for the Dutch navy, which is due to receive the first of 20 NATO Frigate Helicopters (NFH) (its entire NH90 order) in 2003. The German army/air force is expected to begin taking delivery of 205 Tactical Transport Helicopters (TTH) the same year, with the navy taking the first of its 38 NFHs two years later.

The total German order is thus reduced from the original 272 machines to 243. Italy, which alone among the four has increased its off take from 212 to 224 aircraft, is due to begin receiving TTH and NFH machines in 2004. France has reduced its commitment from 220 to 160 helicopters, 27 of which are NFHs due for delivery in 2005, while its first TTHs will arrive five years later.

NH Industries says that flight-testing of the first aircraft is proceeding "very well", with the flight envelope opened up fully. The second prototype, the first with a full fly-by-wire flight-control system, will take to the air at the end of 1996, with the final three prototypes following in 1998.

Germany recently ordered the Westland Lynx to meet its requirements, until the navy starts to take delivery of the NH90 in 2007.

Source: Flight International