German Navy to receive first ‘Sea Lion’ helicopters by 2019

The German Navy is set to start receiving first NH90 NTH ‘Sea Lion’ helicopters in the second half of 2019.

The NHIndustries-built helicopters will replace the old ‘Sea King’ which has been in service with the navy for 40 years.

A 1990 initiative to replace both the ‘Sea King’ and the ‘Sea Lynx’ with a multi-role embarked helicopter failed as the goal of acquiring 30 of such units could not be realized at the time. The Ministry of Defence later decided to go with a reduced number of helicopters and ordered 18 NH90 NTH (Naval Transport Helicopter) in 2013.

After a project planing phase and the signing of a contract between the NATO Helicopter Management Agency and NHIndustries, the navy will now start receiving the helicopters in the autumn of 2019. The navy started the project implementation April 28, 2016.

NH90 NTH ‘Sea Lion’

The basis for the German NH90 NTH was the French navy-version of the support helicopter NH90 NFRS. The German version, however, is solely a replacement for the ‘Sea King’. It will be used for search and rescue missions, flight operations for combat support ships and for deploying boarding- and special forces. Integration of medical equipment will allow the Sea King to start performing land-based SAR operations from 2022.

The ‘Sea Lion’ will not be operating as a carrier of missiles or torpedos, the Navy said.

First NH90 NTH helicopters are currently being completed by Airbus Helicopters Deutschland (AHD). The navy hopes to perform first flight verifications by the end of 2016.  While deliveries are set to start taking place in 2019, final outfitting options are subject to the Critical Design Review. All 18 helicopters are expected to be in the fleet by 2022.

Training of the first crews for the operation of the new helicopter started in 2015. The navy said that special attention is being paid to search and rescue mission training, as this will be one of the primary roles of the helicopter.

Another detail the German Navy has to take care of is the integration of the ‘Sea Lion’ onto the Navy’s combat support ships. Although the Berlin-class ships are the biggest ships in the German Navy, finding place for maintenance equipment and spare parts, as well as mission equipment, still poses a challenge.