by Dan Darling, International Military Markets Analyst, Forecast International.
On the eve of the opening of the 2015 Paris Air Show, Sweden’s defense procurement head Lena Erixon announced that the country would receive its first anti-submarine warfare (ASW) NH90 helicopter in the fall. Erixon made the announcement at the Swedish Air Force fan club event in Paris on June 14, while Swedish air chief Maj. Gen. Micael Byden noted that what had originally been pitched as a turnkey program in 2007 remains under development and has raised concerns within the service.
Sweden signed a production contract with NH Industries in late September 2001 that called for the delivery of 18 NH90 helicopters, the full complement of which were to be fully operational by 2008.
Instead, Sweden was able to take delivery of its first NH90s – part of 13 tactical transport variants making up the bulk of the overall order – in April 2011. These models arrived in Initial Operational Capability (IOC) configuration (basic configuration), and because they were limited in operational scope and not cleared for troop transport duties, they began their service lives being used for training purposes. Sweden received its first full-mission standard NH90 (referred to as HKP 14D in Swedish service) on December 17, 2013.
The constant delays in bringing the full complement of NH90s on line prompted Sweden to acquire 15 Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk medium helicopters via the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process between 2011 and 2012 to help address a shortfall in medevac and combat search-and-rescue rotor-lift capabilities in the Afghan theater.
According to an April 2011 testimony to the country’s Parliament by Sweden’s former Defense Minister Sten Tolgfors, the entire 18-unit NH90 complement will not be fully deployable until 2020. That timeline corresponds with Erixon’s comments regarding the latest ASW-configured variants, all five of which are to achieve Full Operational Capability (FOC) within three to five years.