Norway is considering breaking a NOK 6.3 billion (€861 million) contract with Italian AgustaWestland, the Italian producer of the NH90 helicopter. Norway ordered 14 helicopters in 2001, but so far only one has been delivered.
The 14 NH90 helicopters were planned to be put into service on the Norwegian Navy’s largest vessels – the Nansen class Frigates, and on several Coast Guard vessels. The first helicopter was delivered in December 2011 and is now being tested by Norwegian military personnel. It will probably not be operational before 2014.
The new helicopters will be the eyes and ears of Norway’s new class of frigates and on the Coast Guard vessels. Without helicopters the frigates loose much of their striking power and on the coast guard vessels there are crucial in the surveillance of the fisheries in the Barents Sea.
Norway’s Defense Minister Espen Barth Eide has now lost patience with the Italian producer. “If they cannot come up with a credible plan for delivery, we will have to consider other alternatives”, Eide says to Aftenposten.
This alternative could be the American Sikorsky Seahawk helicopter. In a report to the Defense Minister, Norwegian military experts recommend to invite Sikorsky to a tender in order to see if it is possible to replace NH90 with American helicopters.
Sikorsky has delivered helicopters to the US Navy for many years. In January 2008 the company entered a €94.5 billion contract with the US Army and US Navy on production of several hundreds of helicopters, Aftenposten writes.