The NATO Frigate Helicopter (NFH) is one of two versions of the NH90 twin-engine multi-role helicopter being developed by NH Industries. The other version is the NH90 TTH Tactical Transport Helicopter. NH Industries, the prime contractor for the programme, is a joint venture company owned by AgustaWestland (32%)of Italy, Eurocopter (62.5%) and Stork Fokker (5%) of the Netherlands.
Eurocopter is a subsidiary of EADS (European Aeronautics Defence and Space) company formed by DaimlerChrysler Aerospace of Germany, Aerospatiale Matra of France and CASA of Spain. In June 2000, the participating countries signed a contract for the production of 243 NH90s: France 27 NFH, Germany 80 TTH (with an option on a further 54), Italy 46 NFH and 70 TTH and the Netherlands 20 NFH. The first series production helicopter made its maiden flight in May 2004. First deliveries are scheduled: Germany 2004, Italy 2004, France 2005 and the Netherlands 2007.
In June 2001, Portugal became the fifth nation to join the NH90 programme, with a requirement for ten NH90 TTH helicopters. The Portuguese industrial partner is OGMA.
In September 2001, the NH90 was chosen as the common helicopter for the Nordic Standard Helicopter Programme, for the navies of Norway, Sweden and Finland. Sweden has ordered 18 (13 TTT, five NFH), Finland 20 TTH and Norway 14 NFH (six for ASW and six for the coastguard). In September 2003, Greece ordered 20 NH90 (16 TTH and four Special Operations) plus 14 on option.
In July 2004, 20 NH90 helicopters were ordered by the Royal Air Force of the Sultanate of Oman.
In August 2004, the Australian Ministry of Defence selected a version of the helicopter, the MRH 90, to meet the Australian Army requirement for 12 troop transport helicopters under the Air 9000 programme. The helicopters will be built by Australian Aerospace, a subsidiary of Eurocopter, and will enter service in 2007-08.
Total NH90 orders are 345 fixed and 86 options from 11 countries.
In December 2003, the NH90 became the first medium-sized transport helicopter to fly with full fly-by-wire controls with no mechanical back-up. This is the serial production configuration.
The primary missions of the NH90 NFH helicopter are in the autonomous anti submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface ship warfare (AsuW) role. In the anti-submarine warfare role, the helicopter is capable of carrying out detection, classification, identification tracking and attack of submarines. In a typical four-hour "relocation on call" operation, the helicopter would take 35 minutes to reach the area of operation, 20 minutes to release the sonobuoys, two hours on surveillance in the area of operations, 30 minutes to release the torpedoes and 35 minutes to return to the ship and land, with 20 minute in reserve.
In a typical four-hour "screening" operation, the helicopter would take 15 minutes to reach the area of operation, three hours 30 minutes in the operations zone to carry out eleven consecutive cycles of ten-minute sonar dipping and 15 minutes to return to the ship and land, with 20 minutes in reserve.
In the anti-surface warfare role the helicopter is capable of detection, tracking, classification, identification and attack of hostile ships and has over-the-horizon capability. Secondary roles include anti-air warfare (AAW), vertical replenishment (VERTREP), search and rescue (SAR), troop transport and mine laying.
The helicopter has a crew of three, the pilot and Tacco (the tactical co-ordinator responsible mission management) and the Senso (sensor systems operator) in the cabin. The cabin of the NFH is equipped with an avionics bay with a sensor operator station and a tactical co-ordinator station, a dipping sonar and a sonobuoy launcher.
The NH90 has "fly-by-wire" all-electric flight controls from Goodrich Actuation Systems and Liebherr Aerospace. This full authority quadruplex system increases the manoeuvrability of the aircraft while decreasing the weight. The avionics system is supplied by Thales Avionics and is based on a dual MIL-STD-1553B digital databus. The cockpit has five 8in x 8in colour multifunction liquid crystal displays for flight, mission systems and maintenance data. A Honeywell Primus 701A weather radar is fitted.
The avionics package includes the Thales Topowl helmet-mounted sight and display which has a 40° field of view. Topowl also equips the Tiger and Rooivalk attack helicopters.
The NATO Frigate Helicopter can be armed with anti-submarine torpedoes, air-to-surface missiles and air-to-air missiles.
The helicopters for France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Finland are fitted with a self-protection suite from EADS Defence Electronics, which is also to equip the Tiger helicopter. The suite includes EADS AN/AAR-60 MILDS missile approach warning system, Thales TWE Threat Warning Equipment with integrated radar warning and laser warning receivers and MBDA Saphir-M chaff and flare dispenser. Norwegian NFH are to have the ITT AN/ALQ-211 Integrated Radio Frequency Countermeasures (IRFCM) suite. Swedish helicopters will be equipped with an EW suite supplied by Saab Avionics, in conjunction with Avitronics of South Africa. Avitronics is jointly owned by Saab and Grintek.
The NFH is equipped with a tactical forward-looking infra-red system (FLIR) mounted in the nose, a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) and a sonar suite. French Navy NFH will be fitted with the Flash Sonics sonar system from Thales Underwater Systems, which combines the Flash active dipping sonar with the TMS 2000 sonobuoy processing system. The Norwegian and Swedish Navy NFH will also operate a version of the system, Flash-S, optimised for conditions in the Baltic Sea. Dutch, Italian and German NFH will be equipped with the Helicopter Long Range Active Sonar (HELRAS). The HELRAS dipping sonar is supplied by ELAC Nautik of Kiel, Germany, a subsidiary of L-3 Communications.
The NFH is equipped with a Thales Ocean Master 360° surveillance radar mounted under the nose. Swedish NFH will have AN/APS-143B(V)3 Ocean Eye multimode surveillance radar from US company, Telephonics. Ocean Eye has both SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) and ISAR (Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar) imaging modes.The NH90 is equipped with an integrated communications and identification management system. The secure radio system provides air-to-air and air-to-ground communications. The TSC 2000 IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) supplied by Thomson-CSF was developed under German and French co-operation. The helicopter is equipped with a Link 11 secure datalink.
The NFH Helicopter is powered by two RTM 322-01/9 engines supplied by Rolls-Royce Turbomeca. For the Italian requirement, GE Aircraft Engines and FiatAvio are co-producing another engine model, the T700/T6E1. The engines are fitted with a FADEC engine control system.
The fuel tanks, which hold 1,900kg of fuel, are fitted with crash resistant self-sealing cells supplied by Uniroyal Englebert Reifen based in Aachen, Germany. The fuel management system is by AFG. The auxiliary power unit, (APU), from the Microturbo division of the Labinal Group, provides electrical engine starting and powers the ground operation environmental control system, (ECS).