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Kiwi NH90s

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  • Kiwi NH90s

    New Zealand signs for nine NH-90s

    The government of New-Zealand announced today a firm order for 9 NH90 to provide 8 operational helicopters to the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF). The NH90 has been selected by New-Zealand in April 2005 as the replacement helicopter for the RNZAF ageing Iroquois. A signing ceremony took place in Wellington with Hon Phil Goff, Minister of Defence of New-Zealand in presence of Philippe Harache, Eurocopter’s Senior Executive Vice President.

    This additional order for the NH90 comes a few weeks after Australia officially announced an additional contract of 34 MRH90. The NH90 program, led by Eurocopter, now totals 400 firm orders confirming its status of biggest helicopter program ever launched by Europe. The NH90 has been selected by 12 countries including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Greece, Oman, Australia and New-Zealand. Due to its multi-role capability, the NH90 is able to fulfil a large variety of missions and has been selected for Army, Air Force, Navy and SAR services.

    At the ceremony, Philippe Harache declared: "this additional order confirms once again the superiority of the NH90 in its class. We are very proud to supply the government of New-Zealand with military helicopters for the first time ever, given that Eurocopter has been the main supplier of civil helicopters for many years in this country."

    The NH90 fleet operated by the RNZAF will perform military tasks, including Peace Keeping operations, but will also provide valuable support to operations conducted in conjunction with other national agencies for Disaster Relief, Search&Rescue, Emergency Medical Service, Police operations, Fisheries Surveillance, Counter Terrorism, Pollution Control and Customs operations.

    The medium-size twin-engine NH90 ordered by New-Zealand is the Tactical Transport Version (TTH). The TTH Variant for New-Zealand is basically equipped, as any other NH90, with full glass cockpit, advanced Fly-by-Wire Flight Control System with state-of-the-art Communication, Navigation and Mission Equipment. The NH90 is an extremely capable helicopter featuring a modern damage tolerant design, a large cabin volume with two wide sliding cabin doors and a rear ramp. The NH90’s full-composite airframe is corrosion free in any environment, which maximizes survivability and life cycle. The NH90 can carry between 16 and 20 equipped servicemen. It is fully interoperable with NATO and Coalition forces.

    Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.

  • #2
    $771 Million New Zealand dollars for 8 NH90s, 40 percent of the costs being for spares and support, including a ninth frame. The order for 6 LUHs, either EC-135 or AB 109, has been delayed by the budget blow out of the NH90s. While the Merlin is larger than the NH90 and its larger than an AB 139 (an AB 149 recently unveiled is similar in size), which is larger than the Hueys, I wonder whether New Zealand chose correctly. I was expecting the NH90 order to be such a blow out with their budget, some $211 NZ dollars, they would acquire the smaller and cheaper AB 139 instead. The AB 139 is a good helicopter, and better than their old Hueys. Despite the budget blowout, the New Zealand government went ahead with the NH90s their Australian allies went with.


    • #3
      It is an excellent helicopter. No doubt about it. But, the issue I have with the NH-90 for the RNZAF is that I think the alternatives such as the Agusta-Westland A139M for example, have not been seriously investigated. At a NZ$96M per unit package - the NH-90 is way too expensive. Hopefully the Irish Air Corps when they are in the market for a MUH will take a bit more care in their decision making and learn from the NZ experience. But, its too late for NZ now as the contract is now signed. With only eight flyable NH-90's, I think there will be the usual NZDF problem of overtasking. Meaning not enough available aircraft to carry out the range of work required of them. A year ago a contact in 3 Sqd informed me that 12 MUH's were needed to carry out the base level tasking required of the Squadron and that any less would see issues emerge in terms of operational flexibility and capacity. With the increased deployment tempo of the NZDF since the late 90's to present and by all accounts this will rise further over the next decade - the down the line impacts of overtasking and lack of op-flex will be problematic. Something obviously will have to give and unfortunately the repercussions can be terrible.

      With the NZDF LUH programme as yet still unresolved and only six choppers earmarked to be purchased ( Rumours are emerging that the emphasis will be more in the training role and less in the LUH role as only six will be ordered ) - all indications are that with the NZ $231m budget blowout from the NH-90 deal, the LUH replacement programme will be a less capable package that many people hope for.

      There will be a number of issues around the NZDF helicopter capability for the next Govt to face. IMHO it will be prudent to pick up another 2 SH-2G's so as to not let tasking issues also effect 6 Sqd in its support of the Anzacs and arriving Project Protector vessels. At present the five SH-2G's have been busy enough and what with unforseen problems or accidents arising from time to time such as an airframe out of action like on Te Mana in May 04 after a heavy landing in the Gulf, 6 Sqd will be well and truly stressed. I can see the same situation arising with only 8 NH-90's with task assignments for all 3 NZDF services. Its very risky stuff. I think the next NZ Government should look to biting the bullet and getting 10-12 A109LUH's (such as what the South African have) to supplement the NH-90's. It would solve a heck of a lot tasking and operational flexibility problems that the current Government I fear have let themselves in for and wont break the bank.


      • #4
        Good to have the antipodeans on board.
        Ireland had intended to buy some S92 Medium lift helis, but for various reasons, this deal was cancelled. Instead we decided to modernise the Utility Heli area, where we suffer greatly. The AW139 fits this perfectly, and is considered the successor to the Huey size aircraft. The NH90 fills the next category, that of the Medium transport heli. It would be better suited replacing a sea king type aircraft.

        Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.


        • #5
          Since New Zealand can wait until next year to order the 6 LUHs, probably EC-135s, and get delivery in 2009, this is why they weren't bought now. The first NH90s won't appear until 2010, thats four long years from now.

          Actually the larger Merlin helicopter is the replacement for a Sea King. The NH90s are slightly smaller, and the AB 139s smaller still. But at their price, the AB 139 is a better helicopter for the money in my mind.

          Australia was able with a larger order of 44 NH90s to get theirs for $70 million each, New Zealand suffered with their small order of 8 having to pay over $90 million each. The spare parts and support package doesn't stretch well with such a small order, a price smaller nations will always have to face.

          With the 6 LUHs, the NH90s won't be tasked as hard. The new LUHs will be able to supplant the NH90s in many roles, currently unforseen. New Zealand will have to get used to a two helicopter fleet instead of one, using the lighter helicopters for lighter roles and the medium heavier helicopter for heavier roles. For example, you wouldn't use a truck to deliver to your home a small portable TV when the backseat of your car will do. On the other hand you wouldn't use the backseat of your car to deliver a large big screen TV either, you would use a truck.


          • #6
            Seems like the Canadians are also considering the 139



            • #7
              The NZDF's LUH replacement programme has a number of key issues for us to ponder. Whether the original acquisition considerations are the same now compared to the 2004 LTDP (post the NH-90 budget blowout) it remains to be seen. It's a programme which I think is hugely important and beneficial to the NZDF if handled and funded right.

              The primary role for the Bell 47-G replacement is as a rotary training platform with potential LUH capability. In the training role this not just for the conversion of pilots for the NH-90 and the SH-2G Helicopters, but also for aircrew as well. This means the LUH also needs to be large enough to allow for these crew training activities. It is important that the new training chopper does this - as it will free up the time and cost of not having to use the far more expensive NH-90's and SH-2G's for training duties - thus they can be used in their primary roles. The RNZAF has requested that the LUH should be of a twin engine configuration to prepare for the continuance on the frontline aircraft.

              What has intrigued me about the LUH programme is that the requirements put out by the NZDF have not been as definative as most of the other acquisition programmes in recent times. I find the NZDF far too vague in this regard. Even now that we have the NH-90 order signed off, we aren't any clearer on the general guidelines and specifications the NZDF requires other than the numbers of aircraft sort (six). Its likely that a decision wont be made until after the May 07 Budget.

              Will the as yet unfinalised programme requirements provide for an aircraft capable of limited deployment on the Project Protector vessels?

              Will it be capable of been used in a true LUH role in support of ground ops - possibly NZSAS?

              Will it be capable of comfortably operating night and day in support of SAR in the Southern Alps and in a Coastal SAR role?

              There has been no official NZDF mention of the front runners for the programme, but the speculation is for either the EC-635 or A109LUH to get the nod - but its pure speculation. Its all very up in the air - what do you guys think is going to happen? What would you do if it was down to your decision?


              • #8
                I had'nt heard that it would be a post May 07 decision , I had believed that the annoucement would be with in the next month or so. Would be interesting to know how the EC135 is working out for the Air Corps given that it is a strong possibility for the RNZAF, I would prefer the A109 Power for the fact it is probably a better aircraft to operate of the OPV's (especially as it will be used to train Seasprite pilots).

                I understand the Augusta Westland people are very keen to make a sale into the NZ market so they may well put together a nice deal. The A109 also looks alot sharper, has a higher cruise speed (similar to the NH90) and is corrosion treated for a marine environment. I would say they are around the $NZ10M mark not sure what the Air Corps paid for their EC135 but probably abit less.


                • #9
                  I agree with you Kea regarding the points you made concerning the selection of the A109 over the EC 135/635. Another attribute in favour of the A109 is that its hover ceiling (ground effect) is well over 4000m - where as the EC135's is only rated at 3050m. With 21 peaks in the Southern Alps at over 3000m its obvious that the A109 would be the better bet if Alpine SAR is part of the programme specifications. Knowing the Alpine interests of the PM - its those type of specifications which might point to Ms Clark giving the A109 getting the nod.

                  I'm adding to the speculation here, but maybe the EC135(635) is losing its appeal in the eyes of the Govt - on the grounds that it wasn't bundled with the NH-90 purchase announced last month. With the eight NH-90s coming online post 2010 through to 2013, could the Govt be looking into the risk management side of things regarding the sustainability of keeping the 14 Huey's in the air until the NH-90s are all in service? The A109 would seem to be more capable of filling the gap if a number of the Huey fleet can't be sustained until the NH-90 fleet arrives as well as its primary training role.


                  • #10
                    Don't forget that is 9 NH90 diguised as 8 for some unknown reason , I think buying French military equipment might still be a bit repugnant as well for historical reasons (OK I know its European but it is more French than the A109), but I think the A109 is the better suited aircraft, will be easier to handle on ship decks being wheeled, and would be a good special forces delivery aircraft. I think the Iroqois will gradually phase out as the NH90 come on line, the NH90 would be overkill for many tasks currently carried out by the RNZAF, hopefully more than the 6 indicated will be obtained.


                    • #11
                      The 9th NH-90 in the order will be an unassembled airframe purchased for attrition reasons. As for buying French - thankfully its not fully French if that makes you feel any better. Speaking of things repugnant; notice that the Labour Govt tries very hard to avoid buying anything American. Am I being just a tad too cynical about them and their PC ways? But, dont you get the impression that buying anything American is too repugnant for the current Labour Govt? That been said, the NH-90 is an excellent MUH and I am pleased that the NZDF is getting it though the cost is quite high ( I blame that squarely on former Defence Minister Mark Burton and his dithering ). I cant see any more NH-90s being purchased even if National gets in next election and raises their defence spend to 1.75% GDP as they are suggesting.

                      So with no more NH-90's forthcoming, thats why I am hoping for the A109LUH to get the nod as the next LUH because it would be the best operational complement to the NH-90. Besides its an economical way to increase the overall rotary capability of the NZDF. I can then see a National Govt ordering another six A109s to round out numbers to a dozen or so. That would provide for pretty useful and flexible rotary force in the NZDF. Eight NH-90s in 3 Sqd, five SH-2G's in 6 Sqd and say twelve A109LUH's for the training / LUH role in a reborn 1 Sqd. All that remains is to get 1 more SH-2G for the Anzac/Protector fleet and another used C130 from somewhere to put through the Life Extension Programme and we would again have a great little Air Force next decade. Then maybe the overtasking issues that have dogged the Rotary and Transport Wings of the RNZAF for the last 15 years could well and truly be history.


                      • #12
                        I think buying European rather than American has more to do with securing agricultral markets (notice how once the NH90 deal was done the butter access suddenly was restored), I thought the H92 was an interesting option, a bit cheaper than the NH90 and bigger, obviously the Austrailan decision played a big part also.

                        I notice there is a strong tendancy to refer to the proposed new aircraft as a utility aircraft rather than a training aircraft, a promising sign. These heleicopters were supposed to be in service by now, not sure why it takes so long to make a decision, the $800M on the NH90's did'nt really have that much of an impact in the press (hardly a mention in parliament), might as well spend some more now and get a decent LUH fleet, may even be cost effective rather than putting the hours on the NH90's.

                        What are your thoughts on retaining Whenuapai as a joint Military / Civilian operation with 6 sqn and a detachment of the LUH based there (and maybe relocate the special forces guys from Papakura), would seem a shame to lose it totally with the relocation to Ohakea, it is a pretty strategic location with its proximity to Auckland.


                        • #13
                          Good points Kea! Interesting that you raise the point about Whenuapei. A fortnight ago I asked John Key MP at a conference I attended that very question. I specifically asked him would a National Government retain Whenuapei Air Base? He replied National would indeed keep Whenuapei Air Base open as a military installation. I then asked him if any civilian aspect would be included. He replied that Whenuapei is currently part of the NZDF and National would continue to have it solely under NZDF control, adding that it was important to have a major Defence Force installation in Metropolitan Auckland. In a later chat I had with Maurice McCully the shadow Defence spokesman - he reiterated what John Key had earlier told me.

                          What I have in mind for Whenuapei is that it would become the NZDF Joint Forces operational base (HQJFNZ would still be in Trentham). It would be the major staging / transit facility for NZDF's deployment operations as well as still being the home of 5 Squadrons P3K Orions and 6 Squadrons SH-2G's. A flight of LUH's would be a part of this. We have Rennie Lines (NZSAS) close at hand in Papakura and up the harbour is Devonport Naval Base where the Anzac's, MRV and OPV's are based. As for having NZSAS on site at Whenuapei - there were some "cultural" problems from time to time when they were based across the road at Hobbie. Lets keep them close but not too close. Maybe the new Counter Terrorism Assault Group - the so called 'B Team' attached to SAS but unpatched could be placed there. Other units of the NZDF such as the Territorials (3 Battalion) could be Headquartered there as well. It's a big base after all - plenty of room. But in my opinion not enough room for a part-time civilian airport. What do you think?
                          Last edited by Te Kaha; 15 August 2006, 11:41.


                          • #14
                            I suppose the SAS boys are sick of being moved around and the cost of relocating them is'nt cheap, yes you are right the new CTAG would fit nicely in WNP, the airport environment would be good for their training scenarios also. I think a limited civilian use could be managed afterall it was the international airport until 1966, perhaps a transtasman carrier or freight, pretty much limited to 767/757 size anyway. It is definately too valuable an asset to lose, having ready access to the Kaipara weapons range is also a consideration. I think Ohakea is definately too far away to support the SeaSprites properly.


                            • #15
                              Im old school. I think that Military bases and Civilian airports should be kept separate. The RNZAF have been at Whenuapei since WW2 and the Airlines were forced on them in the early days of civil aviation because it was the closest tarmac runway to Auckland at the time and the post-war Governments dithered over building a real International airport. With a second runway to be built at AIA within the next decade, I dont see the point to Whenuapei accommodating any limited civilian use.

                              Getting back to the NH-90 ( As we are both Kiwi's dragging the topic off into areas which might sideline our Irish friends from commenting on - though Im enjoying the discussion ) were you suprised by the fact that we are getting the French built NH-90s and not the Aussie built ones? There is probably a good reason for it - like timing, politics, trade deals with the EU ... its just that I'd rather give the Skippies the work than the French.