Because of the slow progress of phasing in and building the operational capacity of the NH90 in both frigate-based ASW operations and SAR, fishery and border protection, Norway will now outline plans to lease helicopters dedicated for the SAR, fishery and border protection role.
In February 2018, Scramble Magazine already reported on the struggle with the NH90 in Norwegian service. The number of flight hours a year needed is 5,400 for the entire fleet, whilst the analysis performed by the armed forces only calculated an availability of 2,100 flight hours a year. The NH90, of which Norway ordered fourteen in 2001 divided in six to undertake the frigate-based ASW operations and eight for the SAR, fishery and border protection, is still not fully operational.
Because of the huge gap in flight hours, the head of the armed forces, Adm Haakon Bruun-Hanssen, recommended in 2018 that all fourteen NH90s should be used in the anti-submarine warfare mission. Now, on 26 March 2021, the Norwegian Ministry of Defence (MoD) stated that they will hire additional fleet capacity.
This is in line with the 2018 recommendation that the NH90 helicopter is mainly a weapon platform that is crucial to the frigates' ability to detect and fight submarines. According to the MoD, the leased helicopters will be a supplement to the NH90 and deals with a need that does not require an equally specialised and complex platform as the NH90.
No information was given on the type of and number of helicopters, nor about the timeline. A possible candidate can be the Airbus H225.
Photo: Torbjørn Kjosvold/Norwegian Armed Forces