Leonardo revealed on December 23 that the first two NHIndustries NH90 medium-lift utility helicopters for the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) had completed their maiden flights in France and Italy, respectively.
The first – an NH90 NATO Frigate Helicopter (NFH) – was manufactured at Leonardo’s Venice Tessera facility in Italy and completed its initial sortie on December 15. Three days later (on December 18), the first NH90 Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH) for Qatar graced the skies over Airbus Helicopters’ Marignane site in France, where it was assembled. During the flights, crews evaluated the general handling and basic systems of both helicopters, which Leonardo states “performed as expected.”
Gian Piero Cutillo, managing director of Leonardo Helicopters, said: “We’re extremely pleased to celebrate this important achievement as we continue to work to deliver this programme. The NH90 is set to provide the Qatar Ministry of Defence, an important and long-standing customer, with outstanding operational capabilities suitable for a range of missions.”
In total, Qatar has ordered 28 NH90s, comprising 16 TTHs for over-land missions and 12 NFHs for naval operations. The nation also has an option to procure a further 12 examples of the NH90, consisting of six helicopters of each variant. Deliveries to the QEAF are scheduled to begin by the end of this year, with the final example due to be handed over to the air arm in 2025.
As part of the NHIndustries consortium, Airbus Helicopters is responsible for manufacturing and delivering the NH90 TTH, while Leonardo supplies the NFH variant. The Italian firm is the prime contractor for the Qatari deal and will also deliver support and aircrew/maintainer services, along with simulators and training aids.
Under the deal, Leonardo is also responsible for integrating a variety of avionics and sensor payloads into all 28 helicopters. These systems include the company’s LEOSS-T electro-optical (EO) system, a high-definition (HD) mission video recorder, automatic identification system, tactical video link and a full HD display for cabin consoles.