Airbus Begins Tests for Upgraded French NH90 Helicopter Prototype - M5 Dergi
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Airbus Begins Tests for Upgraded French NH90 Helicopter Prototype

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Airbus Helicopters has begun flight tests for the French Army Aviation’s NH90 Standard 2 prototype.

The new configuration is part of Paris’ effort to employ a modern rotorcraft fleet for special forces missions.

It includes the Safran Euroflir 410 electro-optical system, larger rear sliding windows with self-protection gun compatibility, a new digital mapping system, and space for a third crew member.

Additionally, Standard 2 includes the integration of mechanical and electrical components for the Distributed Aperture System and a next-generation Helmet Mounted Sight Digital Display to further boost special forces operability in “highly demanding conditions.”

The tests are supported by NHIndustries, a joint venture between Airbus, Leonardo, and Fokker Aerostructures, in partnership with the NATO Helicopter Management Agency.

Enlarging the French NH90 Fleet

The announcement follows an order received by Airbus in 2023 to supply eight upgraded NH90 Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH) variants for the French Army on top of 10 previously ordered, increasing the future modernized fleet to 18 aircraft.

Valued at 305 million euros ($327.6 million), the project supports the French Ministry of Defense’s goal to expand its NH90 fleet to 81 by the end of the decade.

The 18 aircraft will be manufactured at an Airbus facility in Marignane. Starting their shipment in 2026, the vehicles will gradually replace the military’s aging Caracal and Cougar helicopters.

The company delivered the first NH90 to the army in 2011, with its initial deployment under the service completed three years later.

Currently, 63 NH90s with 50,000 overall flight hours are active under the French Army.

The NH90 Helicopter

The Airbus NH90 measures 19.5 meters (65 feet) in length and has a maximum gross weight of 10,600 kilograms (23,369 pounds).

Depending on the variant, the aircraft can carry up to 4,000 kilograms (8,818 pounds) of payload and accommodate more than 20 personnel.

It has a maximum speed of 162 knots (300 kilometers/186 miles per hour), a range of 530 nautical miles (609 miles/982 kilometers), a service ceiling of 3,200 meters (10,500 feet), and endurance of up to five hours.

Users can equip the NH90 with torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, and medium-caliber machine guns for anti-surface or anti-submarine warfare alongside special operations.

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