NH90 Helicopters enters service with RNZAF


French NH90 medium utility helicopter

The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) has formally inducted the first of its two new French NH90 medium utility helicopters into operational service for training missions within New Zealand.

The two helicopters were delivered by Nato Helicopter Industries (NHI) as part of a NZ$3.3bn long-term development plan (LTDP), aimed at helping its military meet minimum capability levels.

New Zealand Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said the NH90s will considerably improve the defence forces' ability to conduct military, counter-terrorism, disaster relief, search and rescue, and other operations.

"This milestone illustrates that we are delivering on the plan laid out in the Defence White Paper," Coleman added.

The NH90, intended to replace the aging fleet of 12 Vietnam War-era UH-1 Iroquois helicopters that have been in service since 1966, will boost the prospect of New Zealand Defense Force (NZDF) engagement in distant ad-hoc coalitions.

The multi-role, medium-sized, twin-engine NH90 helicopters are capable of carrying over twice the Iroquois's payload and can operate in harsh military environments, over land and sea, day or night.

The aircraft are equipped with four-axis auto-pilot and advanced mission flight aids, specific mission and role-fit equipment, infrared and night vision systems, on-board monitoring and diagnostic systems, and fly-by-wire control technology.

The helicopter will also be operated by the air force from the Navy's 9,000t multi-role vessel HMNZ Canterbury to enhance counter-terrorism, disaster relief, search and rescue, and other operation capabilities.

A total of eight operational helicopters, including one spare, were ordered in 2006 under a $771m deal which also involved spare parts and training.

The RNZAF will receive the remaining six NH90s over the course of this year.

The helicopters are also in service with the German, Spanish, Italian and the French Armed Forces.

Image: NH90 to assist RNZAF during assault, transport and search-and-rescue missions.