Stewart Penney/LONDON

Defence ministers have agreed to proceed with the Nordic Standard Helicopter Programme (NSHP)to replace transport and naval helicopters in service in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden with a common type.

A ministerial deal is expected to be signed in June and a request for quotations (RFQ) issued by November. A contract for between 50 and 100 helicopters is expected before November next year.

NSHP programme manager Col Mats Westin says a specification is being written. The four nations require a 9-15t helicopter. "We know that some [manufacturers] have helicopters that are too small and one is too large," he says.

Westin says the four nations will continue to search for a common airframe for transport, shipborne anti-submarine/anti-surface warfare (ASW/ASuW), land-based ASW/ASuW and search and rescue roles. "For the moment it is possible that one helicopter will met the core requirement, ... then we will need modules for troop transport, ASW and SAR."

Finland has the most pressing need, as it has retired its Mil Mi-8 fleet. It also has a budget. Westin, a Swedish navy officer, says Sweden will have funds soon for 24 helicopters to replace Kawasaki/Vertol KV107s used for ASW and search and rescue (SAR).

The Danish ministry of defence says it expects to have funding by the end of this month. It requires eight aircraft to replace SAR Sikorsky S-61 Sea Kings and five aircraft for heavy lift, a new role for the army.

Norway's participation is the shakiest. The ministry of defence says it has still to decide whether it is "ready to participate". Funding will be sought once a decision has been made, it adds.

Norway may have to compromise more than its partners as it needs to replace shipborne Westland Lynxs, a type smaller than the comparatively sized Mi-8, Sea King and V107. However, the defence ministry says that as there are "several aircraft on the market and under development which meet the specification, we don't see a need for compromise."

Eleven manufacturers are expected to respond to the RFQ. Westland and Agusta provided a combined EH Industries EH101 response, and it expects to bid on the RFQ. Eurocopter says its bid will be based on its Cougar family but it is also likely to submit an offer based on the four nation NH Industries NH90 with partners Agusta and Fokker.

Boeing says the CH-47 Chinook meets the transport requirements, particularly for Finland and Sweden. Sikorsky continues to propose its S-92, although it stresses this is ahead of seeing the RFQ. Other RFI responses were received from Bell, Kaman, PZL Swidnik and Rosvoorouzhenie, the Russian defence export agency.

Source: Flight International