By Luca Peruzzi
The first NH90 helicopter in the NFH90 naval variant for the Qatari Ministry of Defence (MoD) is under final acceptance trials and will be delivered soon, military sources confirmed to EDR On-Line during DIMDEX 2022.
A major milestone in the Qatar Emiri Air Force’s NH90 helicopter programme was reached on December 18th 2021 when two aircraft, respectively in the TTH and NFH variants, took part in the Qatar’s National Day parade. The first NH90 TTH aircraft was delivered from the Airbus Helicopters’ facility in Marignane (France) on 11 December. The first NFH was made available by Leonardo for the event and shipped from the Venice Tessera facility (Italy) ahead of its final delivery. According to military sources close to the programme, the first naval variant helicopter is under final acceptance trials to be concluded soon.
The Qatari NH90 programme includes 16 NH90 TTHs for land and 12 NH90 NFHs for maritime operations mainly from the new Al Zubarah-class corvettes and the new LPD, respectively under delivery and under construction by Fincantieri in Italy. Both variants are equipped with the RTM322-01/9A version, which features a 7% power increase over the baseline RTM322-01/9, providing improved mission capabilities in “hot and high” conditions. The Qatari NH90 naval variant is based on the French Navy NFH baseline configuration, equipped with the TTH rear ramp as displayed by spotter images of helicopters under delivery and the model on the Qatar Emiri Air Force stand at DIMDEX 2022.
Although Leonardo, Airbus and NHIndustries do not confirm or comment except for the information provided with press statements, EDR On-Line understood the Qatari NH90 naval variant features a customized ASuW/ASW mission suite centred on up to two cabin operator consoles dedicated respectively to surface and underwater missions, managing a complete package of sensors including a Leonardo 15” LEOSS-T HD EO/IR 4-axis gyro-stabilized turret capable to accommodate up to seven electro-optical sensors including laser designator, European Naval Radar surface search radar with SAR/ISAR capabilities, Automatic Identification System and Elettronica ELT/741 electronic support measure for tactical surveillance and self-protection together with chaffs and flares dispensers, HD mission video recorder, data link and tactical video link. The ASW suite includes, EDR On-Line understood, FLASH SONICS dipping sonar and sonobuoy processing and dispensing system for sonobuoys and other equipment provided by Thales, although the company do not comment or confirm.
The Qatari NH90 naval variant is also equipped, as pictured by the models displayed at both Qatar Emiri Air Force and Qatar Emiri Naval Forces stands during DIMDEX 2022, with an external payload transporting system on both side of the helicopter capable to accommodate both auxiliary fuel tanks and weaponry in mixed or asymmetric payload configurations. The model on the Qatari Emir Air Force stand was equipped with the same system accommodating two MBDA Marte ER anti-ship missiles which Qatari Emiri MoD procured for the same helicopters and coastal batteries, with first deliveries of the rotary-wing launched munitions following the initial ones equipping the coastal batteries to be provided by MBDA from 2022. The NH90 naval variant model on the Qatar Emiri Naval Forces stand was equipped with a ‘generic’ lightweight torpedo payload, suggesting the Qatar MoD could have also procured this weapon system, EDR On-Line understanding this might be the Eurotorp MU90 Impact.
Leonardo is prime contractor for the overall programme and is also responsible for the final assembly and delivery of the 12 NH90 NFH helicopters from its Venice Tessera facility. The company is also supplying simulators, training aids and an extensive maintenance support and training services package for aircrews and maintenance technicians. It is providing, contributing to or supporting the integration of various avionics and sensor payloads. Airbus Helicopters is responsible for carrying out the final assembly of the 16 NH90 TTH aircraft. Deliveries will continue through to 2025.
The Italian MoD, through the Army and Navy and with Leonardo support, provides the training Qatar Emiri Air Force pilots to allow them flying both TTH and NFH variants.
Photos Qatari MoD and L. Peruzzi