New NH90 Helicopters launched

  • Jonathan Coleman

The Defence Minister, Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman, officially welcomed the first of the Air Force’s new medium utility NH90 helicopters at an event in Wellington today.

The NH90 helicopters will be the most advanced and capable helicopter the Air Force has ever had,” said Dr Coleman.

“The NH90s will considerably improve the Defence Force’s ability to conduct military, counter-terrorism, disaster relief, search and rescue, and other operations,” he said.

“This milestone illustrates that we are delivering on the plan laid out in the Defence White Paper. Like other defence forces around the world we are reprioritising our resources to provide up-to-date capability for a 21st century Defence Force. The NH90 is an outstanding example of the modernisation process so far,” said Dr Coleman.

In total eight NH90s have been purchased for operations, with a ninth to be used for parts. The first two of these new helicopters is now ready for training purposes within New Zealand.

The new helicopters can carry up to 18 passengers. They can lift an army Light Operational Vehicle (LOV), or up to 3,200kgs of cargo. The NH90s have twin engines for better safety over water.

The NH90s will eventually replace the fleet of 12 Iroquois, which have been in use for more than 40 years.

“We are delighted to have the NH90 helicopters as part of our new fleet. They are an important part of the Defence Force of the future,” said Dr Coleman.


1. What type of helicopter is the NH90?

The NH90 is an advanced medium utility helicopter, capable of undertaking a wide variety of roles.

It was developed to meet a European requirement to replace a range of aging helicopters. The NH90 is a product of more than 10 years of development and testing to meet stringent capability and low maintenance requirements.

The helicopter incorporates new and sustainable technologies and will ensure greater compatibility with our security partners. The NH90 represents a substantial improvement on the Iroquois and will provide the NZDF with a contemporary, highly capable and deployable helicopter.

2. What is the NH90’s role and what sort of tasks can it be used for?

The NH90 will be used for frontline military and civil operations. It has the capability to support ground operations, counter terrorism, disaster relief, search and rescue and counter-drug operations.

It will be available to support other Government agencies, for example, Police, Customs, Maritime NZ, Civil Defence, and the Department of Conservation will all be able to make effective use of the NH90.

3. Which other Nations Defence Force’s operate the NH90?

Germany, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Oman, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Portugal and Australia

4. How many helicopters have been purchased?

The Minister of Defence has signed a contract with NH Industries for the purchase of nine NH90 helicopters. The fleet will consist of eight helicopters, with the ninth purchased for replacement parts.

5. How much do they cost?

The fleet of eight NH90s will be acquired with a logistics and support package which includes a range of ongoing provisions for spare parts, project costs, training, software, publications support and equipment.

The total cost of eight NH90s and the full support and logistics package is $771million. The support and logistics costs represent over a third of this total.

The budget for the helicopter project has been allocated through the ten-year Defence Long Term Development Plan.

6. Who makes the NH90?

Nato Helicopter Industries (NHI) formed in 1992 through an inter-company agreement between four partner companies: Eurocopter (France), Eurocopter Deutschland (Germany), Agusta Westland (Italy) and Stork Fokker (Netherlands).

7. What modifications are being made to the NH90 to make it suitable for NZ requirements?

The NH90 is customised to New Zealand’s requirements. However, differences between other NH90s are minor involving radios and software mainly.

8. Where will the fleet be based?

The NH90 will form part of No. 3 Squadron at RNZAF Base Ohakea.

9. How many people can it carry?

A crew of two pilots and one or two helicopter crewmen with:

  • 18 passengers, or
  • 12 troops with packs and equipment, or
  • up to 9 stretchers plus medical staff.

10. When will the rest of the fleet arrive in New Zealand?

A phased delivery plan will see all aircraft in New Zealand by late 2013.

11. When will the NH90 fleet be fully operational?

A phased approach to releasing operational capability to the New Zealand Government has been adopted.

This will enable the NH90 to provide limited tasking from late 2012 with a full capability release following Operational Testing and Evaluation anticipated in 2015.

12. What capabilities does the NH90 have that the Iroquois doesn’t?

  • Improved-modern and fit for purpose communications suite
  • two inertial navigation units with embedded GPS
  • doppler velocity sensor
  • two air data systems and one ADF and two multi-mode receivers (VOR, ILS, DME)
  • four axis fly-by-wire system
  • digital cockpit with multi-function displays
  • electric rear ramp
  • auxiliary power unit (APU)
  • folding main rotor blades and tail boom
  • enhanced ground proximity warning system
  • voice and flight data recording system
  • weather radar
  • digital moving map display
  • electronic self-protection system (laser, radar, and missile warning, chaff/flare dispenser).