While the overall availability of the French Navy's NHIndustries NH90 Caïman NATO Frigate Helicopters (NFHs) remains a problem, rates are beginning to improve, a senior service official has said.
Speaking to Jane's, the commanding officer of the French Naval Aviation (Aéronavale), Rear Admiral Guillaume Goutay, said the availability of Caïmans for front-line service has increased from 40% to 50%.
"The situation of the Caïman force is slowly improving," he said. "Overall availability remains a problem, however, with about 50% of the fleet being stuck in deep maintenance or in upgrade programmes at any given time.
"That problem comes from the fact that Caïmans were delivered to us in a variety of standards, Step A, Step B, and FRC [full radar configuration], that all need to be updated to MR1 [maintenance release 1]."
Two of the aircraft have already been updated to MR1 standard, Rear Adm Goutay noted, which features "very stable" mission system software and has proven to be more reliable than previous configurations.
"My concern is that the industry is redelivering upgraded NH90s back to us late, and I do not expect that issue to be solved until 2023," he said. "Thankfully, all new Caïman MR1s coming out of the production line are delivered on time."
To date, the Aéronavale has received 24 of 27 Caïmans on order, with the final three expected to be in service by the end of 2021.
The Caïmans will be based with Flottiles 33F, in Lanvéoc Poulmic, and 31F in Hyères on the Mediterranean coast, while one of the Lanvéoc Poulmic-based platforms will be seconded to Cherbourg.
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