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France as a key partner of the NH90 programme
For Ingénieur en Chef de l’Armement Arvind Badrinath, the NH90
Programme Manager at the French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA),
the coming of the NH90 is a real step forward for the French Navy, just as
it will be soon for the French Land forces. They are set to receive their first
NH90 TTH on 22 December 2011 in Valence and five more next year in
Le Luc where the joint NH90 training centre (CFIA NH90) will be based.
Technologically very advanced, the NH90 is a pure military helicopter
designed from the start to meet a common NATO staff requirement.
It enjoys an unusually extended lifespan of 10,000 flight hours before
overhaul thanks to its all composite airframe — a true novelty also found
on the EC665 Tiger — which also helps reduce the number of parts
and the weight of the structure whilst increasing the strength (crash
resistance), the fatigue life (tolerance to vibration) and resistance to
corrosion (a key issue at sea) and battle damage.
Furthermore this rotorcraft, which is the only serial helicopter in the
world to use full fly-by-wire controls with quadruplex redundancy, is
packed with the latest technology available to increase capability, reduce
workload for the crew, and simplify through life maintenance. Supplied by
Goodrich and Liebherr Aerospace in
the USA, the all electric flight controls
of the NH90 have a full authority
quadruplex system which increases
the manoeuvrability of the aircraft all
the while decreasing its empty weight
to make the rotorcraft more agile.
On top of that, with electric flight
controls, maintenance and inspection
requirements are greatly reduced
compared to those of a conventional
control system, like on a large majority
of today’s rotorcraft. Let’s recall that
in 2003, the NH90 became the first
medium-sized transport helicopter to
fly with full « fly-by-wire » controls.
It also uses foldable composite rotor
blades which increase the fatigue strength as well as component life
while enabling improved aerodynamic performance whilst reducing
maintenance on the long run and tolerance to damage. Cherry on the
cake, the main gear box system has a 30 minute “run dry” capability, well
suite to a military rotorcraft.
The Aéronavale’s NFHs are being supplied directly from the Agusta
production plant in two different configurations : 13 ‘ASF’ for SAR and sea
assault, with a rear loading ramp for light vehicles and bulky cargo, and 14
‘ASM’ for pure ASW operations, without that ramp. However the cabin of
all 27 NFHs is able to be fitted at all time with the specific pallet-mounted
ASW kit comprising an avionics bay, a sensor operator station and tactical
coordinator station, plus a dipping sonar and a sonobuoy launcher.
A magnetic anomaly detector (MAD), concealed in the helicopter’s
trapezoidal tail boom, completes the ASW suite for the detection and
identification of underwater targets.
Besides a complete IFF system, the NFH has a comprehensive
communications suite (internal and external) for tactical communications,
and a navigation suite including GPS, INS, Doppler, air data and a digital
The new helicopter has a reduced crew of three : thanks to the inclusion
of a 4-axis autopilot only one pilot is required, seated on the right hand
side of the cockpit, plus a Tacco (the tactical coordinator responsible
for mission management) seated on the left side, and a Senso (sensor
systems operator) in the cabin who doubles as the loadmaster and winch
operator. All French models benefit from an L11 tactical data link - which
provides extended on-board data fusion and total networking with a
NATO task force at sea, something never seen before in an Aéronavale
rotorcraft. The sound man-machine interface of the NH90 and the use of
data fusion, increases the speed, accuracy and the quantity of data that
can be processed .
The NH90 NFH extended avionics system, built around five large
liquid crystal digital screens, is supplied by Thales Avionics and is based
on a dual MIL-STD-1553B digital databus. The French NFH model is
fitted with two radar sets : a Thales ENR 360° surveillance and surface
detection radar mounted under the forward part of the belly and a
Honeywell Primus 701A weather radar installed in the nose just over the
forward-looking IR ball. The ENR or ‘European navy radar’ is derived
from the Thales Ocean Master and has been developed in conjunction
with EADS and Galileo Avionica. It is a low-volume, lightweight (85kg)
system used to monitor surface ships, detect submarine periscopes,
track their movements and accurately classify all the detected vessels.
This digital radar has been designed
to operate in dense electromagnetic
environments, under all weather
conditions and high sea states. It
can track up to 200 targets
The Primus 701A Search and Rescue
Weather Radar has surveillance and
search modes integrated with colour
weather radar. It has reduced EMI
emissions and susceptibility and
improved blanking outputs. Main
features include: SAR with sea-clutter
reduction, 10 kW of transmitter
power, minimum detection range as
low as 450 ft, Doppler turbulence
detection, display range as close as
1/2 nm and pulse widths as low as 100 nsec.
For all-weather and night operations, all 27 French naval machines
are equipped with the 45kg Sagem Euroflir 410 tactical forward-looking
infrared (FLIR) system mounted in the nose below the weather radar.
Other main sensors, directly related to the NH90 NFH principal ASW
mission — and which will only be included with the Standard 2 variant
to be fielded in mid 2012 in France, (starting with aircraft number 8) — .
the French Navy NFH will be fitted with the Flash Sonics sonar system
from Thales Underwater Systems, which combines the Flash active
dipping sonar with the TMS 2000 sonobuoy processing system. By that
time, all Standard 2 NFHs will be able to carry a pair of MU90 torpedoes
or two 250kg drop tanks providing an extra hour of flight. Later Standard
3 variants will add the MBDA ANL-FASGW light anti-ship missile now
under development. Up to four will be carried at one time.
To move all this armament at sea, the NH90 NFH is gifted with a
powerful pair of engines with dual channel FADEC (Full Authority Digital
Electronic Control) system in the form of two Rolls Royce Turbomeca
RTM 322-01/9 turbines delivering a maximum power output of 2,270 shp
(1,693 kW). These modern 4-stage turbines — identical to those of the
EC665 Tiger or the Westland AH-64D Apache — provide enough thrust to
meet the needs of naval users and propel the 11 tonnes of the NH90 at a
cruise speed of 300 km/h or 162 nautical miles per hour. APDR
Caiman no.5 of Flottille 33F at Lanvéoc-Poulmic NAS, Brittany.
Credit: J-M Guhl
APDR Dec 2011.indd 53
11/01/12 6:05 PM
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