Norway dumps NH-90 helicopter contract
Norway terminates an NH-90 deal that dates back to two decades and demands the reimbursement of over $525 million it paid.
Norway, a founding NATO member, has terminated a contract for NH-90 military helicopters it signed two decades ago, the country’s Defense Minister Bjorn Arild Gram announced on Friday at a press conference. The Norwegian military deemed the model that was developed specifically to meet NATO’s requirements as not up to the standards, citing several defects and delays.
The model “will never be in a position to fulfill the requirements of the Norwegian armed forces;” thus, Oslo is now asking for the reimbursement of the nearly €500 million ($525 million) it has paid so far, according to Arild Gram.
"Regrettably, we have reached the conclusion that no matter how many hours our technicians work, and how many parts we order, it will never make the NH90 capable of meeting the requirements of the Norwegian Armed Forces,” Arild Gram said.
The helicopters, already delivered to Norway, ceased operation with immediate effect on Friday, to be returned to the France-based multinational company NHIndustries.
Norway is reportedly looking for a replacement in the meantime, possibly from the US, Germany’s Die Welt outlet said.
As per the reports, the Norwegian military’s final verdict on the NH-90 is described as “damning” for the model and the company that produces it. Norway made it clear that no additional tinkering, investment, or spare parts were likely to make the helicopter worth having.
It seems, however, that NHIndustries will not take the abrupt contract cancellation in stride and could even sue Norway over the decision, which is “legally unfounded", as per the company.
NHIndustries stated that it “rejects the accusations against NH90 and the company,” adding that Norway had not given it the opportunity to address “special Norwegian requirements.”
The manufacturer insisted that 13 of the 14 helicopters that Norway ordered had been delivered, but only 8 of them were fully operational, according to the Norwegian military.
For NHIndustries, Norway’s decision represents a new blow, after Australia, which also bought the NH-90, announced in 2021 that it was planning to replace them with the US-made Black Hawk in the future.
Die Welt claimed that Belgium is currently also considering the replacement of its NH-90s, noting that other users have reported various issues with the NH-90, too. The Netherlands has allegedly complained about corrosion problems associated with the model.
A report by the German military written by the end of 2021 said that only 19% of the NH-90s in service with the German armed forces were operational. Die Welt, citing a German military industry blog, claimed that the country’s Navy lately refused to accept one helicopter due to a persistent fuel smell in the cockpit and radar errors.
The NH-90 is presently in service in over a dozen countries, mostly in Europe.