Norway ordered 14 NH90 for the Coast Guard and Navy in two different configurations back in 2001 with deliveries to be finalised in 2008. Following delays and questions about performance – only eight helicopters have so far been delivered – Norway announced last June that “more than 20 years after the contract was signed, we still don’t have helicopters capable of performing the missions for which they were bought”, as well as announcing their intention to request “a refund from NHI, which will include the approximately NOK five billion [440 million Euro] it has paid under the contract, in addition to interest and other expenses.”
The decision to move forward with the MH-60R comes as no surprise, as it was widely seen as the frontrunner in the race for a replacement. The current proposal – still to be approved by the parliament – cover six MH-60Rs, the first three of which will come from production slots reserved for the US Navy with deliveries starting in the summer of 2025 and ending by 2027. The helicopters will be operated by the Coast Guard which forms part of the Navy, and the role of the helicopters will focus on duties such as SAR and fisheries protection. They will however have the ability to perform the ASW task, as the question of how to replace the canceled ASW-roled NH90 remains unanswered for the time being.
As the NH90 operations stopped upon the cancellation of the contract last June, Norwegian naval aviation has been without a helicopter since. To bridge the gap up until deliveries of the Norwegian Seahawks in two years’ time, Norwegian personnel will be deployed to Karup in Denmark where Eskadrille 723 operate the country’s nine MH-60R Seahawks. The Royal Danish Air Force has flown the MH-60R since 2017, and similar to Norway the mission was originally heavily focused on SAR, fisheries protection, and policing of sea areas.
However, since then ASW equipment has been acquired as well, to give the helicopters the ability to hunt submarines from Denmark’s fleet of frigates. The Danish helicopters have some differences compared to the US Navy standard, such as different deck-locking systems and specific emergency equipment. With Norway’s first helicopters coming from USN production slots, it remains to be seen what configuration will be used by the Norwegian Navy.
A notable detail is that Sweden as well has announced its decision to retire the NH90, and as a replacement for the maritime role they are looking at the MH-60R. This could open up for close cooperation among the three neighboring countries, similar to what has been envisioned for their C-130 Hercules fleets.