By Fred Vergneres

Confronted with a profound change and an extraordinary challenge“, according to the expression used in their press release, the Belgian Defense is forced to drastically reduce its NH90 fleet. 

In order to do so, the Belgian Ministry of Defense could prematurely withdraw from service its four NH90TTHs, the last of which was delivered in 2014. According to the press release, “the measures related to the TTH version of the NH-90 are do to its limited operational production from the imperfect industrial support (which threatens to diminish in the coming years), as a result of very costly but necessary upgrades and personnel shortages“. The excessively high operational cost has in fact forced a 40% reduction in the 1050 flight hours initially allocated by the government until 2022. Although considerable, this figure, however, comes as no surprise since a report by the Kingdom’s Court of Auditors dating back to 2019, had already mentioned the “budgetary” drift of the aircraft. 

With the help of the crisis, the Belgian Defense would therefore choose to concentrate primarily on the NFH (Nato Frigate Helicopter) version which, in its maritime role, should increase the efficiency of the frigates and at the same time ensure the SAR (Search and Rescue) mission.  However, the possible withdrawal of the land version of the NH90 within two years could have major operational consequences for the Land and Medical Components, which would have to find a new aircraft. Belgian Defense says it has several leads currently under review. In particular, there are discussions of an acquisition of H145s, which are already possessed by Germany and Luxembourg. A multi-purpose machine that would enable the salvage of the Belgian budget, and at the same time allow the replacement of the NH90 and A109, which have been in service since 26 years.

To be continued…