Paul Lewis/WASHINGTON DC
The Nordic Standard Helicopter Programme (NSHP) is showing signs of disintegration, with the four participating nations unable to reconcile their different operational and industrial requirements and reach an unanimous agreement on a common platform.
A lack of consensus among the four partners, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, has again forced a delay in the final decision on a new helicopter to at least the third quarter of this year. Finnish defence minister Jan-Erik Enestam has gone so far as to suggest the entire NSHP programme could be postponed for four years.
According to some sources, the Finns are leaning towards the NH Industries NH90, swayed by consortium member EADS' offer to take up to a 30% stake in local manufacturer Patria Industries. The Finnish army initially requires 20 transports to replace its MilMi-8 Hips.
EADS already has an established relationship with Patria through the latter's participation in the Airbus A380 and an equity position would help position the Eurocopter Tiger for an emerging attack helicopter need.
Other bidders have also considered a deal with Patria but opted against such a move. "We looked at Patria and asked BAE Systems which already has ties to Saab, but it was difficult to make a business case," says AgustaWestland group business director Ron Jones. Sikorsky has been equally reluctant to take a stake but, like AgustaWestland with the EH101, has sought to sway the Finns with industrial offsets and co-production.
The Danes, meanwhile, regard the NH90 as too small to replace its Sikorsky S-61 search and rescue machines, which are over 35 years old and were due for retirement last year. The Danish air force needs up to 14 machines, and Copenhagen has threatened to make its own choice, preferring the larger cabin of the EH101 or Sikorsky S-92.
Norway is similarly distancing itself from NSHP and reserves the right to choose its own shipboard naval helicopter (Flight International, 19 December 2000 - 1 January). Neither the EH101 orS-92 are small enough to fit aboard its new frigates, leaving the NH90 as the only real NSHP option unless the competition is opened up to a second type such as the Sikorsky S-70 Seahawk. Oslo needs up to 14 replacements for its AgustaWestland Lynxes.
Sikorsky's prospects for the S-92 are perhaps the strongest in Sweden, where the US company has teamed with Saab. Sweden needs 25 helicopters to replace its Kawasaki KV107 land-based anti-submarine machines and Bell 412s.
Source: Flight International