Belgium’s fleet of naval variant NHIndustries NH90s has been removed from operations while a problem with the helicopters’ radar system is rectified, the Belgian Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed to Jane’s on 16 January.
Three of the four NH90 NATO Frigate Helicopters (NFH) operated by the Belgian Air Component (BAC) are currently undergoing a factory-level modification to the European Navy Radar (ENR), while the fourth is undergoing a major overhaul.
“The ‘situation’ [with the radar] was already known when the first helicopters were delivered [in 2013], so [we] were prepared for it,” an MoD spokesperson told Jane’s , adding that the navy’s Sea King and Alouette III helicopters can fill any capability gaps, as can NH90s from either France or the Netherlands.
The confirmation that all four of the BAC’s NH90 NFH helicopters are currently out of service comes on the back of Belgian media reports that the MoD is far from happy with the NHIndustries consortium of Airbus Helicopters (62.5%), Leonardo (32%), and Fokker Aerostructures (5.5%) over the issue.
“Everything went wrong from delivery,” BAC commander General Frederik Vansina, was quoted by Flemish VRT Radio on 12 January as saying, adding, “There are indeed penalty clauses included in the contract and NHIndustries [is paying] them, but we do not yet have a deployable helicopter.” Airbus Helicopters, the majority stakeholder in the international consortium, directed all questions to NHIndustries, which did not respond to a request for comment.
Based on Selex Galileo APS-784 and EADS/Thales Ocean Master, the ENR system is made by a consortium of Airbus Defence and Space (formerly EADS Defence Electronics), Thales France and Leonardo (formerly Selex Galileo) and is designed to provide a 360° track-while-scan surveillance with target recognition capability.
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