NH90 grounded in Belgium

NH90 Coast Guard Armed Forces RescueNH90 and the Coast Guard. Photo: Forsvaret.no

The NH90 helicopters are grounded in Belgium

In Belgium, three NH90 helicopters are grounded after a number of errors are found. The same helicopter type has created problems for the Norwegian Armed Forces.


The NH90 helicopters are taking over Belgium’s rescue service after the Sea King machines, but as of next week all four of the country’s four NH90 helicopters will be  grounded , writes Teknisk Ukeblad.

General Frederik Vansina, head of the Belgian Air Force, says, according to the  channel VRT and the Brussels Times, that they have been having trouble with the Caïman helicopters as the NH90 is called in Belgium since 2015.

– At delivery it became apparent that there was a lot of errors. In three of the four machines, the radar does not work properly. The crews have reported that it turns itself off. There are generally many errors, says Vansina.

One in operation in Norway

Norway’s purchase of 14 helicopters of the same type has become one of the most problematic defense acquisitions ever. The Coast Guard has experienced constant delays, and only one of the helicopters is currently in operation. In the annual summary for 2017, the Coast Guard writes that it was not possible in 2017 to establish an operational helicopter capacity on the Coast Guard vessels.

– This means that those who roam the seas cannot expect the Coast Guard’s vessels to have helicopters operating on board, says commander in the Coast Guard, Morten Nyheim Jørgensen, to the Fishermen’s magazine (Fiskeribladet) during Christmas.

Head of Defense, Haakon Bruun-Hanssen, called the helicopter purchase a scandal during the so-called frigate hearing in February 2017. The then Minister of Defense, Ine Eriksen Søreide (Conservatives), stated that the plan is to have operational helicopters by 2020, but that depends on that there will be no further delays or problems.


The helicopters for the Armed Forces frigates have now been delayed for more than ten years. Last October, the Armed Forces confirmed that they are looking for alternatives.

  • The Armed Forces look at alternatives to the NH90 helicopters. Lack of delivery must provide alternative solutions for the Navy, said information manager in the Navy Endre Barane to the site never again (aldrimer.no).

According to Barane, a workgroup in the Defense Administration is in the process of assessing the situation.

While the Coast Guard is going to aquire eight helicopters, the plan is that the frigates will eventually have six. It is a major problem that the total number of flight hours from the mid-2020s will be well below half of what the Navy has planned for, the Armed Forces Forum (Forsvarets Forum ) wrote in October.

No quick solution

The NH90 helicopters are being developed in cooperation with several other European countries and are delivered by a consortium where Eurocopter is the majority shareholder. Norway has had six helicopters delivered alltogether.

In May last year, an impatient control committee in the Parliament (Storting) asked the Government to review the contracts. Søreide then said that it would be no quick solution to terminate the contract.

Sweden also originally ordered NH90 helicopters, but ended up canceling the entire contract several years ago and acquired helicopters from the competitor Sikorsky instead. According to Teknisk Ukeblad the 15 Sikorsky machines were delivered in just 16 months. Sikorsky is the company behind the trusted work horse, the Sea King, which has formed the backbone of Norwegian Search & Rescue for more than 30 years.

Larger area in less time

The work tasks of the new helicopters will span from coastal missions, search and rescue missions, medivac, anti u-boat operations, counter terrorism, special operations and monitoring. Compared with the former Lynx helicopters, the NH90 can cover a larger area in less time with far better equipment for identifying vessels and submerged submarines.

– In other words, the NH90 can find more people, far away and in worse weather conditions, and get them safely back home, the Norwegian Defense (Forsvaret) reports on their web pages.


© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today