Friday, December 9, 2011

NH90: PROMISE Me It's Not Another Dog!

The Russians landed at Ohakea air base this week.
A 280-tonne Antonov AN124 cargo plane - one of the largest planes in the world and the largest to ever land at Ohakea - was delivering the first two of the RNZ Air Force's eight new NH90 helicopters (to replace the classic Iroquois helicopters, reliable workhorses for four decades).
They're two years late but at least they're arriving: the next three should be here in April - all up, a criticised $771 million that blew out our defence budget big time!! 
In 1985 France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and UK teamed up to develop a NATO battlefield transport and anti-ship/anti-sub helo for the 1990s: the NH90 was the result.
The tactical version's primary role is transporting 20 troops or more than 2,500kg of cargo, heliborne operations and search and rescue. Additional roles include medical evacuation (12 stretchers), special ops, electronic warfare, airborne command post, parachuting, VIP transport and flight training. Sounds cool! But...
a 2010 Bild report said the chopper is utterly unusable for combat troop transportation! Among other things, it listed that the seats are only suitable to carry 110 kg/240lb max. weight, not enough for a fully equipped grunt. Weapons can't be sufficiently secured during transport. The floor is too weak and can be damaged by dirty combat boots. The helicopter can only land on firm ground, with obstacles not exceeding 16 cm/6in. Fully equipped troops can't board/leave the helicopter, as the access ramp is too weak. Adding a doorgun is not possible due to the lack of space. In response, the German Defence Ministry said the report referred to a prototype, not the production model.
So have we bought our military more dogs? Jeez, I hope not, or this is becoming a seriously bad habit! If so, we're in a 16-nation dog-handling club. Time will tell...

PS: 13 April 2012 - Woof! Woof! The NH90 IS a dog! What a surprise!

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