After its maiden flight on 30 November 2023, the helicopter continues its faultless record with a mission system test campaign from Marignane

The MRFH (Multi-Role Frigate Helicopter) Sea Tiger was developed specifically to meet the needs of the German Navy. A total of 31 helicopters have been ordered, with a mission system focused on anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare. On the path to entry into service in 2025, an important step has just been taken with an eight-week test campaign that took place from February to April 2024.

Going deep

“For this campaign, we used the first production aircraft equipped with the full mission system that will be used by the German Navy,” explains Ingo Bayer, senior manager of the Sea Tiger programme. In addition to qualifying the AIS, most of the work focused on the use of Thales’s FLASH SONICS dipping sonar in combination with the deployment of active and passive acoustic buoys. The use of underwater targets allowed us to test the correct operation of the detection equipment in credible conditions. We worked in close collaboration with the French Navy and the possibilities offered by its facilities in Toulon,” notes Ingo Bayer. “This is one of the reasons why we came to Marignane for these tests.”

Another reason was the presence of the necessary water depths in the Mediterranean Sea, which was essential for fully testing the sonar. Flights with attached torpedoes were also used to check that the weapon communicated correctly with the helicopter’s mission system. “Carrying the torpedoes also allowed us to perform a series of manoeuvrability and flight limit tests with the external loads. The crew was very happy with the results. We didn’t have to release any torpedoes as we had already obtained this qualification.” Flight tests were also carried out on MBDA’s MARTE ER  anti-surface missile, a weapon already qualified on the Qatari customer’s NH90s.

Trust and cooperation

In accordance with the rules for this type of test, the helicopter was placed in the hands of an Airbus Helicopters pilot, with a German Navy observer pilot in the right-hand cockpit seat. The principle was the same in the cabin, with one console occupied by an Airbus Helicopters operator and the other by a customer representative. On the ground, German technicians worked alongside their Marignane counterparts. “Some of the flights were also witnessed by French and Italian customer representatives,” says Ingo Bayer. 

If this campaign was a real success, it was largely due to the trust and close cooperation that developed between the teams. A number of international observers told us that they had never seen such a high level of cooperation between a manufacturer and its customer.

- Ingo Bayer, Senior Programme Manager for the NH90 at Airbus Helicopters

The excellent availability of the helicopter during the 50 or so flight hours logged enabled us to adhere closely to the schedule that had been drawn up in September 2023, even before the first flight. “We stayed true to the scenario that was written more than six months ago and achieved the required performance within a very tight timeframe,” stresses Ingo Bayer. “The customer was not only impressed, but also very satisfied!” 

All eyes are now on Nordholz, where a demonstration will take place, the last major qualification step before deliveries begin in 2025.

A demo from A to Sea

From June to mid-August, a Sea Tiger will be deployed from the Nordholz base in a full demonstration of its operational capabilities. The aircraft, still operated by Airbus Helicopters, will follow an operational flight profile from A to Z, with sonar activity and simulated torpedo and missile firings. This type of test has never before been carried out on a helicopter and will demonstrate the integration of the various on-board equipment within a comprehensive mission scenario. Both customer and industry crews are looking forward to flying the next major test campaign in the same spirit of close collaboration established in Marignane.


Here's a look at the NH90 Sea Tiger mission system test campaign in Marignane:

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