The German parliament’s budget committee on Thursday approved a €2.3 billion ($2.7 billion) contract to buy 31 NH90 helicopters for the German Navy. Reuters reported citing a parliamentary source, the information was later confirmed by the German Ministry of Defence. The helicopters, dubbed Sea Tiger, are the second naval variant of the NH90 helicopter to be bought by the German Navy, and will replace its fleet of 24 elderly Westland Sea Lynx Mk. 88 helicopters currently in service in the anti-submarine role. The first NH90 naval variant, dubbed Sea Lion, is being procured in 18 units to replace the Navy’s Sea Kings.
The German Navy is expected to receive their new ASW helicopters from 2025. They will be known as the “Sea Tiger” in German Navy service. Its special designation is “multi-role frigate helicopter” (MRFH). It will be the German version of the NH90 NATO Frigate Helicopter (NH90 NFH) and closest to the French variant of the NFH (NFRS) known as Caiman. According to the German Navy, maritime helicopters are an integral part of the “frigate system”. Equipped for example with sonar, radar and torpedoes, they are essential sensors and weapons carriers in ASW and ASuW. They can also flexibly support maritime operations through transport and rescue missions.
The NHIndustries NH90 is a medium-sized, twin-engine, multi-role military helicopter. It was developed in response to NATO requirements for a battlefield helicopter which would also be capable of being operated in naval environments. The NH90 was developed and is manufactured by NHIndustries, a collaborative company 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 November 2020, the NH90 has logged 265,372 flight hours in the armed forces of thirteen nations.
The NH90 has the distinction of being the first production helicopter to feature entirely fly-by-wire flight controls. There are two main variants, the Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH) for army use and the navalised NATO Frigate Helicopter (NFH); 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. Since introduction into service, the NH90 has suffered several teething issues, which has delayed active deployment of the type by some operators.