The NHIndustries NH90 is a medium-sized, twin-engine, multi-role military helicopter designed to meet the most stringent NATO standards. Developed in two versions – tactical troop transport (TTH) and NATO frigate helicopter (NFH) – the NH90 contains a unique, fully integrated mission system for operations in the most demanding conditions over land and sea, day and night. The NH90 was developed and is manufactured by Europe’s NHIndustries, a collaborative company, which is owned by Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo (formerly AgustaWestland) and Fokker Aerostructures. The first prototype conducted its maiden flight in December 1995; the type first entered operational service in 2007. As of January 2017, the NH90 has logged 127,000 flight hours in the armed forces of thirteen nations.
The NHIndustries NH90 has the distinction of being the first production helicopter to feature entirely fly by wire flight controls. The core helicopter for the tactical troop transport (TTH) and the NATO frigate helicopter (NFH) versions is a twin-engine aircraft incorporating innovative features such as an advanced mission flight aid and fly-by-wire control system with 4-axis autopilot, along with on-board monitoring and diagnostics systems. Each customer typically has various alterations and customisations made to their own NH90 fleets, such as different weapons, sensors and cabin arrangements, to meet their own specific requirements. In early service, the NH90 has suffered several teething issues, which has in turn delayed active deployment of the type by some operators.
The NH90 NFH version is a ship-based compact maritime helicopter, one of the primary maritime weapon systems for any surface fleet. Operating from shore or warships up to sea state 6, the helicopter is tailored for full capability in both anti-submarine (ASW) and anti-surface unit (ASuW) warfare. Search and rescue operations can be performed in either of these configurations. Complementary roles include maritime surveillance and control, airborne warning control, logistic transport and utility support, vertical replenishment (VERTREP), casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) and special operations – including counter terrorism and anti-piracy. The NFH integrated mission system and state-of-the-art man/machine interface provide the crew with clear and accurate mission information. Voice and data link communications enable autonomous or joint operations. The NH90 can be configured to launch anti-ship missiles, torpedoes and sonobuoys, while the NFH version can be equipped with one anti-ship missile and one torpedo simultaneously. Advanced navigation and ship landing aids enable the helicopter to perform safe landings in day/night and adverse weather conditions, supplemented by a deck lock device for securing the touchdown in high sea states.
The NH-90 Troop Transport Helicopter (TTH) variant of the NH90 medium lift, multi-role military helicopter is developed to meet NATO Staff Requirements (NSR), providing operational superiority from the base to the battlefield. The versatile design and role fit features of the NH-90 TTH provide highest levels of utility capability to military operators. With a wide modular cabin, large sliding doors on each side and a rear ramp, the NH90 TTH can be rapidly configured for such missions as troop transport with a 20-seat configuration, light vehicle transport, casualty evacuation with 12 stretchers, cargo airlift with standard NATO pallets, armed tactical transport, as well as combat search and rescue. Able to self-ferry or be transported by ship or air, NH-90 TTH operates from forward bases in harsh combat environments, without heavy support infrastructure. The platform provides a number of utility roles including troop transport, logistics support, Casualty Evacuation/Medical Evacuation (CASEVAC/MEDEVAC) and Search and Rescue (SAR). Combat-proven since 2010, the NH90 tactical troop transport (TTH) version has been successfully deployed in Afghanistan, Mali, Iraq, and Gabon. Disaster relief missions have been carried out in the Philippines, Vanuatu, Timor, Fiji, the Caribbean, Italy and New Zealand.
The NH90’s integrated avionics suite and glass cockpit facilitates intuitive crew interfacing with helicopter systems, communications suite, flight, navigation and mission aids. The NH90 features a range of customizable avionics systems, dependent on customer selection and purpose. On some models, French firm Thales Group provides various parts of the avionics, such as the glass cockpit, full-colour multifunction displays, tactical mission and encrypted communication systems, the TopOwl helmet-mounted sight/display, IFF and autonomous navigation systems, and the electrical power generation system. Other systems include a forward looking infrared (FLIR), weather radar, digital map generation system, enhanced ground proximity warning system, personal locator system, and VHF/UHF/HF tactical radios. In 2015, the NH90 became the first helicopter to receive an laser-based airborne collision avoidance system. Onboard mission systems feature a dual-redundant databus, are compliant with MIL-STD 1553, and are comprehensively managed via sensor fusion functionality. Customer demand for future avionics improvements such as new data links and communication systems, as well as additional electro-optical sensors, have been anticipated by the manufacturer.