The country is also demanding a full refund of the NKr5 billion (US$500 million) it has spent on the acquisition so far, and has begun the process of selecting a new maritime helicopter to replace the fleet.
In a statement on 10 June, Norwegian Defence Minister Bjorn Arild Gram said that the decision had been made because it had been evaluated that ‘no matter how many hours the personnel work, no matter how many parts we order, the NH90 will not be able to meet the needs of the armed forces’.
NHI is resisting the termination of the contract, stating that it is ‘extremely disappointed’ with the decision. It claims is ‘legally groundless’ and says that it ‘refutes the allegations being made against the NH90, as well as against the company’.
NHI also stated that it was ‘not offered the possibility to discuss the latest proposal made to improve the availability of the NH90 in Norway and to address the specific Norwegian requirements,’ and that it and its partner companies ‘have been absolutely committed to addressing the concerns previously expressed’. It also noted that the 14th NH90 planned for delivery to Norway was now ‘ready for acceptance’.
The decision follows production delays and reports of unreliability
The decision follows years of delays to the supply contract’s schedule. Originally, all 14 maritime NH90s were due to be handed over by NHI by 2008 – this was later amended to 2022.
According to Gro Jaere, Director General of the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency (NDMA), this schedule has now slipped to 2024, and while 13 aircraft have been delivered thus far, only eight are in their final configuration. She cited severe delays to the delivery of the helicopters, reliability issues, maintenance issues, and component obsolescence as the key factors behind the decision to end the contract.
Reportedly, the aircraft have a failure rate per flight hour that is 40 times too high, even in their final configuration. This has led to aircraft intended to fly 3,900 hours per year to fly an average of just 700 hours. Additionally, certain key components, such as those relating to the NH90s anti-submarine capability, have become obsolete during the protracted manufacturing period, with NHI being unable to find suitable replacements.
Jaere said: “We have made repeated attempts at resolving the problems related to the NH90 in cooperation with NHI, but more than 20 years after the contract was signed, we still don't have helicopters capable of performing the missions for which they were bought, and without NHI being able to present us with any realistic solutions.”
Airbus, one of NHI’s three constituent consortium partners, had previously announced a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Norwegian firm Kongsberg in February 2022, with the intention of strengthening local maintenance capabilities for the NH90.
Norway is the second country to withdraw from the NH90 program, after the Australian government announced in December that it was retiring its NH90 fleet early in favor of the Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk. Canberra also cited ‘unreliability’ as a key factor in the decision.