After 39 months, Naval Aviation of the German Navy has taken delivery of all 18 Sea Lion helicopters (NH90) from Airbus Helicopters. However, the new model is not yet ready for use.
With the landing of the NH90 NTH registration number 79+51 at the naval aviation base at Nordholz on January 31st, the Sea Lion procurement program was completed. The Bundeswehr ordered 18 Sea Lions in 2015 to replace older Westland Sea Kings.
Delivery was four months late. This delay was “caused by additional evidence as part of qualifying the Stage 2 configuration and maintenance work as part of the delivery,” according to the Bundeswehr. Six of the 18 NH90 NTH Sea Lions are in final Stage 2 configuration.
The German Navy has started initial flight operations and is continuing to test the weapons system as part of the integrated verification process.
“The complete acquisition of the tasks of the still active Sea King Mk41 helicopter, including the continuous maritime SAR operation task, is the objective of all current activities,” the German Navy said.
“The prerequisite is an operational helicopter fleet with the necessary functional capabilities and sufficient material operational readiness to cover operational needs.
This requirement has not yet been met,” according to the December armaments report. And further: “Therefore, the functions required in the weapon system usage profile must continue to be tested under near-operational conditions.
The technical and logistical concept must prove its suitability for use in the Navy’s special conditions and, if necessary, be optimized accordingly. A reduction in the scope of maintenance is intended in favor of greater aircraft availability”.
Delivery of the tactical and flight simulator to Naval Aviation Squadron 5 is now scheduled for June 2023. The first comprehensive test (factory acceptance test) began in October 2022.
In order to increase the availability of spare parts, Germany is participating in the multinational Performance Based Logistics (PBL)-NH90 Operational Support (NOS) contract, which was concluded on May 23, 2022, between NAHEMA and NH Industries.
The Sea Lion will replace the Sea King in 2023 and will fully assume its duties as an onboard helicopter for the Navy Task Force Supply Operation (EGV) and Search and Rescue Service (SAR) for the North Sea and the Baltic. It must also carry out maritime surveillance missions with its Thales ENR 360-degree maritime space monitoring radar.
The NH90 Sea Lion helicopter is also suitable for transporting boarding soldiers and other special forces. If the helicopter has to fly into a risk zone, it can be armed with heavy machine guns and accommodate up to 20 soldiers on board.
The first Sea Lion flight at Airbus Helicopters in Donauwörth took place in December 2016.