Airbus Helicopters is “convinced” it can deliver NHIndustries NH90 Sea Lions to the German Navy on schedule. The program has a “demanding timetable,” Airbus said, but the second prototype just reached a major milestone.
Last week, the second Sea Lion prototype took its maiden flight in Donauwörth, Germany — nearly a year after the model’s first flight in December 2016. Now Airbus can enter a development testing phase. Over the next several months, the manufacturer said it plans to focus on the aircraft’s avionics and software. Efforts to qualify the delivery configuration are slated to start next year, once additional modifications have been made to the prototype.
Although commissioned by the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (Bundesamt für Ausrüstung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr), these NH90s are headed for the German Navy, with deliveries slated to begin at the end of 2019. Airbus said final assembly of the first Sea Lion series production aircraft also started recently. It is to run in parallel with qualification efforts.
When in service with the German Navy, the Sea Lions could see a variety of different roles, including search and rescue, maritime reconnaissance, special forces, and personnel and material transport. It is also expected to operate on Type 702 combat support ships. As an augmented version of the NH90, the fly-by-wire-equipped Sea Lion has more sensors, updated military friend/foe identification and improved navigation and communication equipment. It should be able to operate in civil airspace.
The NH90 has two main variants: the NH90NFH (NATO Frigate Helicopter) and one for tactical transport land-based missions. The company is owned by Airbus Helicopters (and Airbus Helicopters Deutschland), Leonardo and Fokker.