Modern and innovative
The NH90 – developed by Europe’s NHIndustries partnership (Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters, and Fokker Aerostructures) – was designed to meet NATO’s requirement for a modern medium-sized multi-role military helicopter for both land and maritime operations.
The core vehicle for the tactical troop transport (TTH) and the NATO frigate helicopter (NFH) versions is a twin-engine aircraft incorporating innovative features such as an advanced mission flight aid and fly-by-wire control system with 4-axis autopilot, along with on-board monitoring and diagnostics systems.
Benefitting from a modern approach to materials, the NH90’s composite fuselage has fewer parts and a lower structural weight, resulting in 30% more endurance compared to a metallic fuselage, plus increased resistance to battle damage, among other benefits. The composite rotor blades have greater fatigue strength, damage tolerance and component lifetimes, as well as improved aerodynamic performance.
The NH90 is a versatile, compact heavy helicopter, small enough to fit in the hangar of a NATO frigate, but with cabin volume to accommodate 20 fully-equipped troops or a maritime mission system.
It was designed with flexibility in mind, while the performance matches a full range of missions and payloads – enhanced by the rotorcraft’s ability to refuel while in hover flight.
With a wide modular cabin, large sliding doors on each side and a rear ramp, the NH90 can be rapidly configured for such missions as troop transport with a 20-seat configuration, light vehicle transport, casualty evacuation with 12 stretchers, cargo airlift with standard NATO pallets, armed tactical transport, as well as combat search and rescue.
An integrated system
The NH90’s integrated avionics suite and glass cockpit facilitates intuitive crew interfacing with helicopter systems, communications suite, flight, navigation and mission aids. This enables effective management of the cockpit environment for mission success and safety in all operating conditions.
The development of highly integrated workstations and the use of data fusion increase the speed, accuracy and quantity of data that can be processed and displayed on configurable screens, which is vital for both autonomous and joint operations in land and maritime environments.
With pilot workload drastically reduced through the use of an optimised human-machine interface, the NH90 NFH can be operated for naval warfare missions day and night with a crew limited to one pilot, one tactical coordinator in the cockpit, and one sensor operator at the cabin workstation. A configuration with two pilots and two tactical operators in the cabin is also possible.
Detection avoidance: The NH90 features the lowest radar signature in its class thanks to its diamond-shaped, full composite airframe. In addition, infrared suppressor devices and vertical engine air intakes further contribute to lowering its acoustic and infrared signatures.
Self-protection: The helicopter’s advanced self-protection suite is composed of laser and radar warning receivers, a missile launch detection system and chaff/flare dispensers.
Survivability: The inherent redundancy of fly-by-wire controls (four segregated analogue / digital channels) greatly increases survivability if engaged by small arms fire. All systems and subsystems are redundant and segregated; armour plating is provided for both crew and troops.
The crashworthy composite structure, which prevents heavy components from breaching the cabin, combined with highly effective floatation gear, gives a best-in-class level of crew survivability.
Commonality and maintainability
The NH90’s tactical troop transport (TTH) and NATO frigate helicopter (NFH) versions use common systems, facilitating parallel design and simplifying the logistics support footprint.
Having one core training system for pilots and maintenance technicians, along with a core maintenance and spares system, significantly reduces lifecycle costs.
Learn more about HCare Services at Airbus’ helicopter site.
NFH version (NATO frigate helicopter)
The NH90’s NFH version is a ship-based compact maritime helicopter, one of the primary maritime weapon systems for any surface fleet. Operating from shore or warships up to sea state 6, the helicopter is tailored for full capability in both anti-submarine (ASW) and anti-surface unit (ASuW) warfare. Search and rescue operations can be performed in either of these configurations.
Complementary roles include maritime surveillance and control, airborne warning control, logistic transport and utility support, vertical replenishment (VERTREP), casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) and special operations – including counter terrorism and anti-piracy.
The NH90 can be configured to launch anti-ship missiles, torpedoes and sonobuoys, while the NFH version can be equipped with one anti-ship missile and one torpedo simultaneously.
Advanced navigation and ship landing aids enable the helicopter to perform safe landings in day/night and adverse weather conditions, supplemented by a deck lock device for securing the touchdown in high sea states.
The NFH variant has fulfilled missions along the East African Coast, in the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean, and the Caribbean, Mediterranean and northern waters.