NH90 Helicopter Receives Major Upgrade with Block 1 Program

NH90 Helicopter Receives Major Upgrade with Block 1 Program

The NH90 combat helicopter is set for a significant capability boost with the launch of the comprehensive Block 1 upgrade program. NHIndustries (NHI) and the NATO Helicopter Management Agency (NAHEMA) have signed a contract to develop and qualify this crucial update, also known as Software Release 3 (SWR3).

This 600 million Euro program, signed on behalf of Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy, marks a pivotal moment in the NH90’s evolution. The upgrade aims to enhance both the Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH) and NATO Frigate Helicopter (NFH) variants, ensuring the platform’s relevance well into the future.

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Key Upgrades

The Block 1 program introduces several cutting-edge improvements:

  1. Enhanced communication suite
  2. Data Link 22 integration for beyond line-of-sight interoperability
  3. IFF Mode 5 Level 2 integration for advanced aircraft identification
  4. Latest generation electro-optical system
  5. New dipping sonar for improved anti-submarine warfare capabilities
  6. Integration of the MK 54 torpedo and Marte ER anti-ship missile
  7. Civil-grade Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and flight management system

Implementation Plan

The upgrade will be rolled out in two phases. The initial phase focuses on developing and qualifying these new capabilities. The second phase, currently being finalized, will involve deploying the Block 1 configuration improvements to approximately 200 NH90 helicopters across both TTH and NFH variants.

Long Term Vision

Axel Aloccio, President of NHI and Head of the NH90 Programme at Airbus Helicopters, emphasized the program’s significance: “We have a clear plan to extend the life span of the NH90 up to 50 years. The Block 1 programme will cover the next ten to fifteen years. Beyond that horizon, we are also planning the Block 2 upgrade.”

This commitment to continuous improvement underscores the NH90’s importance to NATO forces and its expected longevity in military service.

Industry Impact

The NH90 program showcases European defense cooperation, with NHIndustries leveraging expertise from Airbus Helicopters (62.5%), Leonardo (32%), and GKN Fokker (5.5%). This collaboration ensures the NH90 remains at the forefront of military helicopter technology.

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