The German Navy’s NH90 SEA LION multi-role naval helicopter conducted its maiden flight at Airbus Helicopters in Donauwörth on 8 December. The Navy is to receive 18 SEA LIONs, with deliveries commencing in late 2019.
The Navy is preparing intensively for acceptance of SEA LION, with technical and flight personnel already training and infrastructure preparation under way at the Nordholz naval air base, which will be home to the fleet. The second aircraft, awaiting qualification testing, is currently at the final assembly stage and series production at Donauwörth will commence in the summer of 2017. The last aircraft is scheduled to enter service in 2022.
When deployed, it will take on a range of roles including search and rescue (SAR), maritime reconnaissance and special forces missions as well as personnel and materiel transportation tasks. In addition to its land-based use in SAR missions, the NH90 SEA LION is also intended to operate on Type 702 BERLIN-class combat support ships.
Thanks to its multi-role capability and future-proofing, the SEA LION will not merely replace the Bundeswehr’s SEA KING Mk41 fleet but will significantly enhance the Navy’s operational capabilities. Its electronic fly-by-wire flight controls reduce crew workload and are precise and easy to use – characteristics that come to the fore in hovering over water, even in poor weather conditions. The aircraft’s advanced, high-strength composite construction offers optimum protection for the crew thanks to its excellent crash behaviour. SEA LION features an increased number of sensors and improved navigation and communications equipment, which means that this military helicopter will also be able to operate in civil air space. The military friend/foe identification has also been updated to the latest standards.
Ralph Herzog, Director in the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw), commented: “We need to keep to a tight schedule if we are to replace the SEA KING in time. This requires all those participating in the project to coordinate quickly and efficiently to achieve this. By using an existing NH90 model as the basis for the SEA LION and adding the required additional functionalities to it, we have been able to significantly reduce the delivery process. This model is also configured not only to be an adequate replacement for the SEA KING but is designed so that it can be adapted to future roles.”