Norway ends contract for NH90 helicopters, wants full refund

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — NATO-member Norway has terminated its two-decade-old contract for 14 NH90 maritime helicopters, citing delays, errors and time-consuming maintenance. It will return the helicopters and wants a full refund of the nearly 5 billion kroner ($525 million) it has paid, the defense minister said Friday.

“Regrettably we have reached the conclusion that no matter how many hours our technicians work, and how many parts we order, it will never make the NH90 capable of meeting the requirements of the Norwegian Armed Forces,” said Bjørn Arild Gram, calling it it “a serious decision.”

The helicopter was developed in the mid-1990s by NHIndustries, a partnership between three European companies based in Aix-en-Provence, France. It is used by numerous countries.

Norway ordered 14 helicopters for coast guard and anti-submarine warfare duties in 2001, the Armed Forces said. They were originally slated for delivery by the end of 2008. As of today, only eight have been delivered in a fully operational configuration.

“The fleet is currently required to provide 3,900 flight hours annually but in recent years it has averaged only about 700 hours,” the Armed Forces said.

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In February, Norway’s Defense Ministry requested that a comprehensive review of the country's maritime helicopter capabilities was conducted. The review concluded that even with significant additional financial investments, it would not be possible to bring the performance and availability of the NH90 to a level that would meet Norwegian requirements.

The Norwegian Defense Material Agency has informed the manufacturer of the NH90 that it has terminated the contract in its entirety, and that it will be seeking full restitution of all funds and assets received by both parties. Norway will return the helicopters along with any spares and equipment received.

NHIndustries in a statement said it was "extremely disappointed by the decision taken by the Norwegian Ministry of Defense and refutes the allegations being made against the NH90 as well as against the company.”

It added that it had not been given the possibility to discuss its latest proposals and that it considers the Norwegian termination of the contract at “legally groundless.”

The Norwegian Defense Ministry said it will shortly begin the process of identifying an alternative maritime helicopter.