Airbus Helicopters has delivered the first NH90 in full anti-submarine warfare (ASW) configuration to Sweden, after many delays. The Swedish Defence Material Administration (Swedish acronym FMV) ordered 18 NH90s for troop transport, search and rescue (SAR) and ASW as long ago as 2001. It subsequently ordered 15 UH-60M Black Hawks from Sikorsky for the troop transport role and allocated 13 of the NH90s to SAR. Saab acted as missions system integrator for the Swedish order.
Swedish officials previously expressed much dissatisfaction with the NH90 but have recently signaled greater confidence in the helicopter by awarding the makers a new contract to modify four of the SAR versions already delivered for ASW, so that the future fleet is split equally between the ASW and SAR missions. During a briefing for journalists before the Paris Air Show last June, Swedish air force chief Maj. Gen. Micael Byden said, “The NH90 has to improve. It’s not doing enough.” At the same briefing, FMV director-general Lena Erixon said she was “more confident today than two years ago” about the NH90, but that full operational capability was still “some years away.”
The Swedish version of the NH90 uniquely has a higher cabin to accommodate the bespoke mission system, tactical radar and underwater sonar. Sweden intends to equip its NH90s with a new, lightweight torpedo. Wolfgang Schoder, head of governmental programs for Airbus Helicopters, said the Swedish ASW NH90s are “specially tailored for the operative environment in the Baltic Sea [and] best suited for the customer’s requirements.” In October 2014, a submarine was spotted in the Stockholm archipelago, but Swedish forces were unable to force it to the surface. Russia denied any involvement.
Airbus Helicopters said that the first ASW NH90 had been thoroughly tested by the Swedish acceptance team at the Donauworth factory in Germany, and over water near the company’s Marignane factory in southern France. “With 260 NH90s already delivered to 13 nations and nearly 100,000 flying hours in operation, this combat-proven helicopter is now confirming its worth at the hands of the most demanding customers,” said Schoder.