Airbus Starts Flight Testing Upgraded French Army Helicopter

Airbus Helicopters is flight testing a modified version of the NH90 helicopter with an upgraded Distributed Aperture System, new helmet mounted digital display and Safran's Euroflir 410 electro-optical system, among other upgrades. (Image: Airbus)

Airbus Helicopters has started the flight testing campaign for the prototype of the NH90 Standard 2. This standard is one of the latest NH90 configurations and is being developed specifically for the French Army Aviation, to support special forces operations. The French Ministry for Armed Forces has ordered a total of 18 NH90s in the Standard 2 configuration. Flight testing will continue until the end of the year in accordance with the schedule agreed with the French Armament General Directorate (Direction Générale de l’Armement).

The NH90 is a twin engine rotorcraft developed by Europe’s NHIndustries partnership (Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters, and Fokker Aerostructures) to meet the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) requirement for a medium-sized multi-role military helicopter in both land and maritime operations. More than 500 NH90s have been delivered to 18 customers in 14 countries (as of the end of 2023), accumulating more than 400,000 flight hours, according to Airbus.

The Standard 2 configuration includes the integration of the Safran Euroflir 410 electro-optical system, a new digital map generator, installation for a third crew member and new enlarged rear sliding windows able to accommodate self-protection guns.

The tests will validate the design of the new configuration. The prototype of the NH90 Standard 2 has also been equipped with mechanical and electrical provisions dedicated to the Distributed Aperture System (DAS) and a new generation Helmet Mounted Sight Digital Display (HMSD-DD) in the view of a future integration at a later stage. These systems will improve the special forces capabilities to operate in highly demanding conditions.

These flight tests are part of the program launched in 2020 by the NATO Helicopter Management Agency (NAHEMA) and NHIndustries (NHI) and its partner companies (Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo and Fokker) for the development and the upgrade of 10 NH90 TTHs in the Standard 2 configuration.

Following the program launch, in December 2023, NAHEMA on behalf of the French Ministry for Armed Forces, awarded a contract to NHIndustries for the production of eight additional NH90 TTHs in the Standard 2 configuration, thus renewing their confidence in the NH90 program.

By the end of the decade, the French Army Aviation will operate 81 NH90 TTHs. The NH90 was first delivered to the French Army in 2011.