The South Korean navy is considering the NH-90 helicopter as a potential replacement for the Lynx, used for anti-submarine missions. An encouraging update on the NH-90 comes from the French Navy chief, who recently acknowledged improved performance and constructive communication with manufacturers.
In a €2 billion project approved on December 29, South Korea plans to replace its Westland Lynx helicopters. The two contenders are the NH-90 NFH and the MH-60 Seahawk. The South Korean navy currently operates 25 of the Westland Lynx helicopters, delivered in two phases. Thirteen Mk.99 Lynx came in 1990, followed by twelve Mk.99A Super Lynx nine years later, with an additional eight AW159 Wildcat helicopters added to the fleet in 2013.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), South Korea's defense procurement agency, seeks a more powerful replacement for the Lynx. The successor to the Lynx must have stronger anti-submarine and anti-surface capabilities and be equipped to respond to threats of ballistic missile launches from North Korean submarines.
The NH-90 NFH, part of the NHIndustries consortium (Airbus Helicopters, Fokker, Leonardo), has a range of 590 nautical miles. The helicopter features a FLIR thermal camera, panoramic radar, optronic ball, missile launch detector, and a Flash dunking sonar. It also has the ability to deploy acoustic buoys and carry two MU 90 torpedoes.
This is not the first potential military deployment for the NH-90. The Dutch Defense Ministry recently confirmed a mid-life renovation for their 19 NH-90 NFH (Nato Frigate Helicopter), adding fifteen years to their service life. This followed the first flight announcement of the NH-90's “Sea Tiger”.
Despite its qualifications, the NH-90 is not without its share of criticism. The French Navy has expressed concern about availability issues in the past, leading to the replacement of NH-90s in Australia and Norway by the UH-60/MH-60 by Sikorsky, a subsidiary of Lockheed-Martin.