NHIndustries NH90 - Design and Development

Design and Development

In 1985, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom teamed to develop a NATO battlefield transport and anti-ship/anti-submarine helicopter for the 1990s. The United Kingdom left the team in 1987. On 1 September 1992, NH Industries signed an NH90 design-and-development contract with NAHEMA (NATO Helicopter Management Agency). This agency represented the four participating nations: France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. Portugal later joined the agency in June 2001. Design work on the helicopter started in 1993. The first prototype, PT1, made the type's first flight on 18 December 1995. The second prototype, PT2, first flew on 19 March 1997 and the third prototype, PT3, on 27 November 1998.

The NH90 has been developed in two main variants: the Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH) and the NATO Frigate Helicopter (NFH). However, many of the customer countries have requested specific changes for their NH90s. The programme had some technical and funding problems in the 1990s. Then the partner nations placed a large production order for 366 helicopters in June 2000. This was soon followed by a series of orders from Europe, Asia, and Australia.

The NH90 was initially intended to be produced at three exporting assembly lines; Cascina Costa in Italy for AgustaWestland, Marignane in France and Donauwörth in Germany for Eurocopter. The Nordic and Australian contracts stipulated production locally (the Nordic ones at Patria in Finland and the Australian ones in Brisbane). Spain has a final assembly line at Albacete.

The programme ran into a 2 year production delay, and the first NH90s were delivered by late 2006. The type certification for the Finnish helicopters was finally approved on 19 February 2008.

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