EADS subsidiary Australian Aerospace has promised to create 750 skilled jobs to build the NH90 NFH (Nato Frigate Helicopter) locally if it is chosen to replace the Royal Australian Navy’s fleet of S-70 Seahawks and cancelled Super Seasprites.
The announcement came as an NH90 NFH started demonstration flying in Australia, with an Italian Navy example arriving on January 24 aboard an Antonov AN-124, and conducted a dipping sonar demonstration on Sydney Harbour as part of the January 26th Australia Day celebrations and demonstration flights for key delegates at the PAC10 maritime exposition and conference. The NFH 90 is up against the Sikorsky/Lockheed Martin MH-60R ‘Romeo’ in the competition under Project AIR 9000 Phase 8.
“The job creation and investment Australian Aerospace is planning in Queensland and across the nation is unmatched in the helicopter industry,” said Australian Aerospace CEO Dr Jens Goennemann. “Our competitor’s helicopters are built in the United States – so there’s a straight choice between creating jobs in Australia and jobs in the US.”
“The NH90 NFH is, without doubt, the most technically-advanced anti-submarine, anti-surface ship combat helicopter in its class,” he added. “It has world-leading performance which would take Australian naval aviation to a new level of operational capability. It also features 80 per cent commonality with the MRH90 multi-role helicopter which Australian Aerospace is now delivering to the Australian Defence Force. This will help the Federal Government achieve its aim of increasing effectiveness and efficiency by reducing the variety of helicopters in service with the ADF.”
First pass decision on Phase 8 is expected to be made by federal cabinet’s National Security Committee in early February, with an announcement expected soon after. Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky officials are confident their more mature offering will carry the day, while Australian Aerospace is hoping its increased Australian industry package and more capable offering will prevail.