Egypt, France In Discussions Over NH90 Helicopter Buy

 - October 5, 2015, 10:00 AM
Egypt may order the NH90 NFH naval variant, shown, or the TTH tactical transport, according to sources. (Photo: NHIndustries)

Negotiations were at an advanced stage as of October 1 between France, helicopter consortium NHIndustries and Egypt for the sale of a significant number of NH90 medium helicopters. The order would be a follow-on to recent sales of French armament to the Arab country, especially corvettes, frigates and landing ships—all compatible with the NH90.

Egypt has not issued any formal request for proposals for the multi-role helicopter. Nevertheless, an industry source confirmed to AIN that the ongoing discussions “are not for just a couple of helicopters.” A spokesman for the French ministry of defense said he had no information on the potential helicopter deal.

Saudi Arabia is believed to be funding Egypt’s latest weapons purchases, something France’s Le Monde newspaper has reported in detail. One industry source said the use of Saudi resources is “obvious.”

The customer may choose between the tactical transport (TTH) and naval (NFH) versions of the NH90, or a mix of the two, a source suggested. The NFH can operate from Gowind-class corvettes or FREMM frigates, and both variants can be based on a Mistral-class landing ship, which manufacturer DCNS describes as an amphibious assault ship with an integrated command post. The NFH would provide anti-surface and anti-submarine protection of landing ships.

The Sikorsky Seahawk represents a potential competitor for the Egyptian requirement, but Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia thought it was unlikely that Egypt would opt for U.S. equipment. “Given the post-Arab Spring politics of the region, I'd expect Egypt to go with a European supplier,” he said. “Since France has been commercially quite aggressive here, Egypt will likely go with NFH90s, or, if they want something less expensive and less capable, (Airbus Helicopters) H225Ms.”

Russian candidates like the Kamov Ka-27/29 and the Mi-17 are seen as relatively old technology or not fit for operations aboard ships. Egypt recently ordered Ka-52 attack helicopters, also believed to be intended for use on landing ships. In addition to protecting the Suez Canal, a strategic asset for Egypt, the newly purchased helicopters may help the country support Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen.

Late last month, the French Navy took delivery of its 15th NH90 naval variant, the first to be delivered in final radar configuration. The helicopter is euipped with “an advanced sonar for improved submarine detection and classification.” A digital map generator is intended to ease mission preparation and execution.