News about the Dutch Ministry of Defense's decision to upgrade its NH-90 NFH helicopters has been confirmed. As one of the key assets of the Dutch navy, this fleet is set for an upgrade to enhance its operational capabilities.
The Fleet: Past and Present
The Dutch navy, Koninklijke Marine, has been operating the NH-90 NFH helicopters since 2010. They currently have nineteen helicopters in their fleet, although one was lost in a tragic accident last year. Unfortunately, some of these helicopters encountered issues while being deployed in the Gulf of Aden; two were found to have corrosion, and a thorough investigation revealed 92 defects on the helicopters manufactured by AgustaWestland/Leonardo. This led to a temporary halt in deliveries, which eventually resumed after the manufacturer agreed to cover the costs of repairs and develop solutions.
Need for Modernization
With the NH-90 NFH helicopters about to reach half of their operational life in just two years, it became evident that some systems, which were designed back in the 1990s, are now outdated. This reality prompted the decision for a mid-life upgrade, which was officially announced last year by Dutch State Secretary for Defense, Christophe van der Maat.
Scope of the Upgrade
The modernization plan involves integrating new communication equipment, an improved sonar system, and more advanced electromagnetic surveillance devices. Another significant improvement is the replacement of the tactical data link L11 with the more secure L22. This new link can share a larger volume of data with other NATO platforms. Furthermore, the helicopters will also be equipped to carry the new American-made MK54 torpedo, increasing their tactical capabilities.
International Cooperation and Future Timeline
To successfully execute this operation, agreements with Belgium, Italy, and Germany have been put in place. The upgrade will largely be undertaken within the Netherlands, involving both the defense personnel and the Dutch industry. The modernization process is expected to commence from 2028, extending the helicopters' operational life by another 15 years.