Nine months after announcing the withdrawal of the NH-90, Norway has chosen the MH-60R Seahawk maritime helicopter. A total of six helicopters will be ordered from Lockheed Martin to be armed by the Norwegian Coast Guard. In addition to performing coast guard missions, these helicopters will also have an anti-submarine warfare capability.
A capability gap to be closed
On June 10, 2022, Norwegian civilian and military authorities announced the end of the NH-90 contract, citing far too many maintenance delays, errors and costs:
"Regrettably we have reached the conclusion that no matter how many hours our technicians work, and how many parts we order, it will never make the NH90 capable of to meeting the requirements of the Norwegian Armed Forces."
The loss of these helicopters results in the creation of an air-sea capability gap for the Norwegian Naval Forces and Coast Guard. The solution was announced by the Norwegian government this March 14: the MH-60R Seahawk will replace the NH-90 in the Norwegian Coast Guard. A total of six helicopters are on order, with the first delivery for 2025 and the last for 2027. The contract is expected to be signed for the summer of 2023 and is estimated to be worth around 12 billion Norwegian kroner (approximately €1.05 billion).
The release states that following tensions in the region, Norway needed to find a quick and combat proven solution. A future Seahawk purchase for the Norwegian Navy is also to be expected: a total of 14 NH-90s had been ordered for the Navy and Coast Guard, while the 6 Seahawks are only for the Coast Guard. It should be noted, however, that the Norwegian Coast Guard Seahawks will have an anti-submarine warfare capability: Norway, with its position on the Norwegian Sea and at the exit of the Barents Sea, must secure its coasts and waters, which serve as an entrance to the North Atlantic. The main threat is of course the twenty or so attack submarines and the ten or so submarine-launched missiles based in the Murmansk region (Murmansk Oblast, Russia).
In order to facilitate the use of the future Norwegian helicopters, personnel will be transferred to Denmark to gain initial experience on the MH-60R. As a reminder, in 2012, Denmark ordered 9 MH-60Rs from the United States (~$686 million) and delivered between 2016 and 2018.
The MH-60R Seahawk helicopter is produced by Lockheed Martin (via its subsidiary Sikorsky) and entered service with the U.S. Navy in late 2005 (IOC, 2010 for FOC). This helicopter is multi-mission:
- Anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare (developed primarily for these two missions)
- Search-and-rescue (SAR)
- Ship logistics support by transporting various containers, crates, etc. between ships via vertical refueling (VERTREP)
- Personnel transport
- Medical evacuations (MEDEVAC)
Size: 19.76 meters long, 5.2 meters high
Maximum mass: 10.7 tons
Propulsion: two General Electric T700-GE-401 engines
Maximum speed: 180 knots (i.e., 333 km/h)
Range: 245 nautical miles (i.e., 453.7 kilometers)
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