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Berlin Security Conference 2021: United States becomes observer of NATO NGRC rotorcraft effort

The US is now observing the European effort to develop a new medium-lift rotorcraft capability to replace the fleet of Merlin (pictured) and other helicopter types from the mid-2030s. (Janes/Patrick Allen)

The United States has been added to the list of observer nations of NATO's Next-Generation Rotorcraft Capability (NGRC) effort to develop a new vertical-lift platform.

Announced by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) at the Berlin Security Conference (BSC) 2021, the move sees the US join two other European NATO countries as observers on the programme that is geared at replacing a range of NATO and global medium-lift helicopters from the mid-2030s.

β€œFrance, Germany, Greece, and Italy, with the United Kingdom in the lead, are the participating nations. Spain, the Netherlands, and the United States are observer nations,” Stacy Cummings, general manager of the NSPA, noted at the BSC 2021, which opened on 24 November. β€œ[The NSPA is] looking for solutions for a multinational fleet construct that meets the nations' needs and that enhances operability.”

First reported by Janes in late 2020, the NGRC sees European NATO members developing a new medium-lift helicopter for the 2035–40 timeframe. Given the timeline, this NGRC project will be concerned primarily with developing and fielding a replacement for the countries' fleet of Leonardo Merlin, Airbus Caracal, and NHIndustries NH90 helicopters, as well as some older types such as the Airbus Puma and Agusta Bell AB 212 that by the mid-2030s will be long past their planned retirement dates but which perhaps have been retained in service for longer than originally anticipated.

Industry officials have previously noted that such a requirement could involve approximately 1,000 helicopters for the NATO and global markets.

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