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The Finnish Army Aviation (1): The NH90 Programme

The Finnish Army Aviation (1): The NH90 Programme

With few exceptions, most helicopter designs used by various military branches are at least 30 to 50 years old. From Army reconnaissance, search and rescue or combat support, to anti-surface, anti-submarine warfare or anti-piracy missions, helicopters have become the backbone of each of the services and are a mainstay of humanitarian missions worldwide. Aging aircraft having serious consequences in regard to safety, performance, lifecycle-costs, and readiness, Super-Frelon, Puma and Super-Puma, Sea Kings, Chinook Helicopters or other, needed to be replaced. While Industry representatives use to say: “the future is now” to comment the arrival of new generation multirole aircrafts, operational people needing to confront future threats are expecting something fundamentally different than the designs the military has relied on for decades. Helicopter’s replacements are now aimed at finding more capable technology that can preserve the versatility of a helicopter while ramping up speed, range and survivability. The NH90,[1] ordered by thirteen nations in two versions is now a success after some difficult years.[2] It has been a long road for Finland to get it’s new NH90-TTH battlefield transport helicopter in a country where the Army Aviation has a reputation of excellence: totaling more than 100 000 flight hours and no casualty caused by accidents since 1961, Finnish people have a great respect for its pilots and mechanics. This paper is the first of a series on the “Finnish model”. Joël-François Dumont met in Helsinki with Lieutenant-Colonel Anssi Vuolle, chief of Army Aviation and working for the Army Command in Mikkeli.[3] November 2, 2013.

European-Security: Thank you Sir to grant us this interview. Are you are still a helicopter pilot in the Finnish Army?

Finland's Chief of Army Aviation LCL Anssi Vuolle

LCL Anssi Vuolle: I am still an active pilot, yes, this is still part of my job, the other is to be a kind of an inspector of the Army Aviation. I am still flying and instructing, taking care of my rotary wing training and qualifications.

European-Security: No doubt, Finland has been one of the first countries to have an Air Force, if not the very first one before Mexico. As a fact, helicopters are in your country under Army control. In France, we also have an Army Aviation (the ALAT, our French Army Light Aviation, created in 1954), that runs about 70% of our military helicopter fleet. Can we compare the Finnish Army Aviation to the to the French ALAT?

The MIL MI4 (Hound) came first in 1962 and became a Museum piece in Jyväskylä

LCL Anssi Vuolle: Finland has had one of the oldest Air Force establishments in 1918, just after our nation's independence. Rotary assets have been inside the Air Force until 1997. Fifteen years ago, they became part of the Army. The main reason for that is that main part of customers came from the Army side. But we are also supporting Air Force, Navy and Special Forces. So we are kind of a joint force for the Defence Forces.

European-Security: Among your main missions, apart from assisting Air Force, Army or Navy operations, I imagine, apart from traditional combat or search and rescue missions, you have to meet the growing challenges involved in national defence including protecting Finnish borders or fighting against organized crime.

NH90 and paratroopers of the Utti Jaeger Regiment

LCL Anssi Vuolle: The main mission for Finnish helicopter unit is same as main missions for whole Defense Forces. The most important mission for us being National defence. Therefore we work with Special Forces, with conventional forces as well as with other forces. In wartime, we both support Air Force, Navy, Army and Special Forces.[4] The second priority for rotarian wings is to support other authorities, mostly doing Search and Rescue operations, help the police forces or fire brigades. The main responsibility of this lies on the border guard. They have Super Puma, adapted forces, and that's one of their most important tasks. But we are supporting them as a secondary role. We do quite a lot of Search and Rescue, firefighting and such other tasks. And the third mission we have is to prepare us for international crisis management. Those are the main three tasks for the helicopter battalion.

Helping Navy's and Army's special forces in Maritime Surveillance

European-Security: The Super Puma has been the workhorse for many years, but now comes to an end. Most countries who have used the Super Puma are considering to equip their units with new generation helicopters, such as Cougar or Caracal. If we take the example of France, or of Switzerland, they have already made a change of generation.

The first NH90 RollOut : The copter arrived in 2008 to replace the old soviet MI8 “Hip”[5]

LCL Anssi Vuolle: We have Super Puma in our border guards. But we don't have Cougar or Super Puma in our Army Aviation. The only modern transport helicopter we have in the Finnish Army Aviation is the NH 90, which was established in 2008.[2] So we have been flying this aircraft for five years now. As you may know, some 500 aircraft have been ordered by some thirteen nations,[6] Portugal having now left the programme. Globally, some 158 aircraft have been delivered. So there are still some more 249 deliveries to come, all made or assembled in five different locations.[7] We have ordered 20. We have now 16 NH90 out of 20 flying. We just received our first Fully Operational Capability - “ FOC helicopter 13th of September.

European-Security: 10 NH 90 have already been delivered to France, 3 to our ALAT and 7 for our Navy which had a urgent need to replace its old Super-Frelon. Finland has now been flying its NH90 for some years, so you have a greater experience than we have with it. How many flight hours have you done yet?

LCL Anssi Vuolle: We have already flown more than five thousand hours and done something like fifty to sixty rescue missions. I know that France has also done some very successful rescue missions. But in a way, after five years flight, we do have now a good experience with the IOC helicopter which is the initial capability aircraft of which we have five pieces and then we have ten IOC+ aircraft which, again, is a step towards the FOC. All the IOC and IOC+ aircrafts will be retrofitted to FOC level by Patria in Finland.[8] They will be sent back to the factory, one by one, they have the new parts and pieces to fulfill the FOC level. So the programme is ongoing until 2018.

European-Security: You fly the NH90?

LCL Anssi Vuolle: After some more years it will the very best in its class I would say. But there are still issues of immaturity and the maintenance is still quite heavy. It's getting better all the time, but it is still heavy to maintain and when it's heavy to maintain, it's hard to get spare parts. The price of spare parts is very high and we hope there will be some change in the near future because it is very expensive to use this aircraft. I hope in the future we can afford to fly it more and more. The current prices are such that there is no nation in the world which can afford to fly such system if the price of maintenance and of spare parts doesn't come down.

European-Security: Not only because of reducing budgets, “Mutualisation” has turned in France and elsewhere to a urgent necessity. The French MoD wanted to rationalize the maintenance of common flying systems both in use in Air Force, Navy, Army and Gendarmerie units and save substantial money by optimizing logistic circuits, from the industrial sector to the operational one. This led the to create the SIMMAD (“Structure Intégrée de Maintien en condition opérationnelle des Matériels Aéronautiques de la Défense”) partly located at Bordeaux-Mérignac Air Force Base 106. Do you have such an organization in Finland ?[9]

LCL Anssi Vuolle: Today, we have NH90 and MD-500 which is a training reconnaissance helicopter for four persons only.[10] And this is the whole helicopter fleet for Finland's Army Aviation. As a small nation, we don't have such programme because the Air Force and the Navy do not have their own assets. The Army with its Army Aviation is taking care of it. We have a good cooperation with the aviation industry in Finland, called Patria.[11] They are taking care of quite a lot of maintenance tasks for us. Their maintenance facility is located in Utti at the same air base we are using. They are strategic partners for us.

European-Security: What other helicopters did you fly before?

The Finnish Air Force received its first MI, serialed HS-2, on May 28, 1973. In 1997 all MI8 have been transferred to the Army Wing at Utti.[5]


LCL Anssi Vuolle: Before I flew the NH90, I used to fly the old Russian MI-8 “Hip” which doesn't have any sort of auto-pilot. [12] I used to say, “if you can fly an MI-8, then you can fly piano if needed”. It's very difficult to fly. There is no help for the pilot which has always a lot of tasks to do. But the NH90 is totally different. It has a great automatic flight-control system that releases the energy for the pilot to look outside of the cockpit and concentrate on the mission. You don't need any more to concentrate on flying; you can concentrate on fulfilling the mission safely and effectively. It's a new kind of philosophy. It's a modern aircraft and we can do more with a NH90 at night time or in bad weather conditions than with an MI-8 at day time by good weather.

NH90 Cockpit

European-Security: Last year, I had the opportunity to fly with an NH90 from our Navy's 32F flotilla off the coast of Brittany. The pilot told me that this aircraft belongs to a new very modern generation of helicopter, the versatility of which enabling him to change the mission, even once flying.

LCL Anssi Vuolle: It is a possibility. You have a wide range of missions you can now conduct. In Finland weather conditions are - let me say - “interesting” because the weather is basically always poor. You can fly in very bad weather, very bad visibility, in icing conditions and do the mission, even less than one kilometer of visibility or icing clouds.

Helping in evacuation of wounded soldier

European-Security: Helicopter are dynamically unstable. You just mentioned the considerable advantage of using the autopilot. A short time ago, I happened to be in Cazaux to pay a visit to one of the most prestigious French Air Force helicopter units.[13] The autopilot for the Caracal helicopters are also very much used, exactly as you said for the NH90. Your French colleague told me: “if I just push this button, the computer will determinate how to stabilize the aircraft over sea, sand or dust and allow me to do something else”. Here in Finland, you don't have sand or dust, but you have water, snow and ice... How often do you use the autopilot?

NH90 Cockpit -- NH90 and Special Jaegers from the Utti Jaeger Regiment

LCL Anssi Vuolle: Well it depends on the mission and circumstances, but basically always, when it is night time or bad weather, we use the AFCS, the automatic flight-control system, because it enhances both the safety and the operational effectiveness. So, there is no point of not using it. It flies better than human and more accurate. Sure we have to be able to conduct a mission without autopilot also. So we train manual flight, quite a lot, but always, in no-play situations, we use autopilot as much as possible or as much as necessary. The NH90, I would say, has quite similar possibilities as Caracal has. There are some features in the Caracal that are more advanced, just a little bit, but it's 99% the same. It is a challenge for training, because somehow the mentality is that it´s cool to fly with your hands on. But actually, you can conduct a mission more effectively if you use the autopilot. So we are changing the mindsets now. Everybody has to use more and more autopilot.

European-Security: Do you also have an air-refueling capability with the NH90 to extend your range or loitering time on station?

LCL Anssi Vuolle: Well, actually, not like the Caracal can do it. There is a possibility of doing the refueling with hoist getting the fuel line up and then doing the refueling. It's a kind - we could say - it's a war time or an emergency situation on the sea area. For example, when the ship is too small or not suited for landing but there is fuel on board, so you can lift the hose from the ship and thus refuel the aircraft.

European-Security: Your Deputy Minister of Defence looks optimistic in the near future regarding a Nordic procurement.[14] When defence budgets are getting scarce, new “solutions” means saving money. One has to make the good choice. This is also true when upgrades are concerned, especially when aircrafts reach their midlife term. For the moment, the NH90 doesn't need to be upgraded. What do you consider as necessary upgrades to be done in order to keep such modern and dynamic multirole helicopter's capacity?

The first Swedish HKP14, a High Cabin Version (HCV) of the NH90

LCL Anssi Vuolle: First of all, we started the procurement together with other Nordic countries. But, in the beginning of 2000, somehow the demands of different nations differed so much that, actually, the helicopter in Norway - even if it is a NH90 - is totally different from the one we have in Sweden and Swedish NH90 is totally different to what we have in Finland. So we lost the advantage in that point. I think - I am not sure of the numbers - but we did not make maximum savings because of that.

European-Security: It's exactly what happened with the A400M...

LCL Anssi Vuolle: But today, because of defence budget cuts and everything, the “NH90 Community” between almost all NH90 user nations, have discovered and understood the necessity to have one common platform. We have to give up the national demands and have one common body for the aircraft, and when we do changes - it is mostly software, new software upgrades - we could say there is a need for upgrades, at least yearly you have to change some small part of the flight control system or whatever system. There are also new ideas on the way you can do missions safely and do it more effectively. We have a kind of a working group taking care of future system development, where different nations can give their ideas. “We would like to have that kind of change for the NH90 system” for instance... Other nations can join the procurement and then in that way we can save a lot of money. The word for the future is commonality. We just have to go towards the commonality. It is a good thing to think in terms of interoperability. It is good thing for the economics because when you buy a software package for ten to thirteen different nations, you reduce the costs, then everybody makes savings and this is crucial. We have to be realistic and have to give up our national demands in order to sustain the aircraft for the future.

European-Security: “Much geography is just common sense”. Even if Geography may differ, it often explains why countries operate in the same way. That may indicate a “model” when strategic choices and conditions of use are the same. We also need it to keep up with the world market and that is also true for the defense sector. When I compare armament choices done by Switzerland and Finland, for training Aircrafts, jetfighters, UAVs, or on the way you provide assistance to both military or civilian authorities with your helicopters - the Swiss Army cooperates with the police - similarities are such in so many domains that I keep asking me: “is there a Swiss model for Finland or a Finnish model for SwitzerlandWhat is your assessment, Sir? Is there for you a Finnish model? As far as helicopters are concerned, what other models do you consider matching the best with your specific needs: American, French, Swiss or Dutch?

NH 90 and paratroopers from the Utti Jaeger Regiment

LCL Anssi Vuolle: I like to say, it is a Finnish model. The missions might be very much the same, but the C2 Command and Control organisation is Finnish made. We have a Joint Defense Command level responsible for all programmes and common capabilities and rotary assets are common Finnish defence Force capabilities. It is led by the Army Command even though it is a joint capability for all Army, Air Force, Navy and ground forces. It's a kind of interesting structure we have but it´s working for us.

European-Security: Another important thing is the formation of pilots. When we do fly the same aircrafts, there might be some specific training, but operational belong to the same world. Everyone is using simulators, but if simulators might help a lot, they never will be sufficient. Is Finland exchanging pilots with other countries? In France, British or German pilots fly with the Rafale, as well as French fly Eurofighters or American made aircrafts - F16 or helicopters.

LCL Anssi Vuolle: We have an exchange programme in the Air Force, but it is a new programme. And we have just a few guys that have been exchanged, instructors for example, in Canada. Of course, we will support that kind of an approach. Our new NH90 weapon system is undergoing development phase, so maybe we should wait for some more years before we can reconsider this. It is one of the possibilities and we really have to look into it. We are doing already benchmarking for NH90 system. We have asked some of the best flying units in the world to come to Finland for a week or two and can evaluate our way of doing this business. Afterwards we ask for honest feedback, and not a polite one, on where we are standing in terms of capabilities, TTPs (Technics, Tactics and Procedures) and interoperability. We have a very good cooperation with Nordic nations and also with some very professional units from the US.

European-Security: Is the Finnish Army Aviation in contact with its French counterparts, that it be our Army Aviation, our Air Force or Navy units? Do you have any exchange with the French ALAT?

LCL Anssi Vuolle: The short answer is “not yet”. One of the new procurements we have is NH90 simulator. We have bought a simulator from France made by Sogitec similar to French Army. This new simulator is a medium-range training device based on T6 French Army model. So it's a 100% like T6 model of the French Army. So I am confident that we could have in the future quite a lot of cooperation with the French Army Aviation, more than we have today. Maybe 2014 or 2015 we start to connect more and more to the French.

European-Security: In one week, the French Air Force Helicopter squadron “Pyrénées” based in Cazaux will host again a major European helicopter exercise, the CJPRSC (Combined Joint Personnel Recovery Standardisation Course) like it did already in September 2009. Some 19 Nations will participate. Why is Finland not taking part to such an exercise?

LCL Anssi Vuolle: PR is something we are also concentrating right now, but we have not receive invitation for this exercise. Last year, we were in le Luc in France.[15] Members of thirteen nations using the NH90 were there. This NH90 User Group is an ongoing programme. It is very beneficial to share the experience we have. Also if you think about safety, you can share very crucial information. When you get to know people, you establish contacts, get their numbers and if you have a question you know who to contact immediately if you think something needs to be shared. It is unofficial but it is one way to save money. If somebody has bought a new equipment, you can directly contact him and ask: is it worth doing this or is there any problem, because you sometimes don't get the reliable answers from the industry. You have to contact the users, the real users who don't have any commercial ties. It is a good way both to save money and avoid making unnecessary procurement.

European-Security: How do you consider Eurocopter?

LCL Anssi Vuolle: Eurocopter France has been a main partner for us since we bought the NH90.[16] We have a good relationship. We still need to develop some kind of let's say “transparency”, because only if you are transparent you can earn the thrust from the customer and we still have to work on that. We have had lots of issues after delays. In the first contract, we were supposed to have the whole system ready, up and running in FOC configuration 2008. Now it seems like we are getting the whole system up and running in 2018. So it has been a huge delay for the programme. This has been a challenge for the industry and for us. We understand the reasons. It has been a very challenging programme for the industry and also for us, the customers. Now I would say, after this last contract amendment we are quite happy with what we are getting. Today when I look in the tunnel, I can see the light. I always see the light, but sometimes it has been difficult. As I said, NH90 is getting better, it is getting more mature, and after a couple of years, I know we will have the best helicopter in its class. There are same problems in France, in Germany, in Italy, in Australia. If we could go back to 2001, what kind of a ten-eleven tons class transport helicopter we would have? Finnish vote would go the NH90 again. So, it was a good decision then, it is a good decision now despite some challenges. And it will be proved in the future that it has huge capabilities inside the aircraft with the new software.

European-Security: Colonel Vuolle, we thank you for your time and for your franc-parler.

[1] NH90 is a medium sized, twin-engine, multi-role military helicopter developed and manufactured by NHIndustries owned by Eurocopter and AgustaWestland. There are two main variants, the Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH) for Army use and the naval NATO Frigate Helicopter (NFH). The primary role of the NFH version is autonomous anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface unit warfare (ASuW), mainly from naval ships. These aircraft are equipped for day and night, adverse weather and severe ship motion operations. Additional roles include anti-air warfare support, vertical replenishment (VERTREP), Search and Rescue (SAR) and troop transport. The primary role of the TTH version is the transport of 20 troops or more than 2,500 kg of cargo, heliborne operations and Search & Rescue. It can quickly be adapted to MEDEVAC/CASEVAC missions by fitting up to 12 stretchers or cargo delivery capability. Additional roles include medical evacuation (12 stretchers), special operations, electronic warfare, airborne command post, parachuting, VIP transport and flight training. Sweden has bought the High Cabin Version (HCV) of both the TTH and NFH, in which the cabin height is increased by 24 cm (9.4 in) to 1.82 m (6.0 ft). The Swedish aircraft have a Tactical Mission System developed by SAAB and are designated HKP14. Finnish and Swedish TTHs are called Tactical Troop Transports (TTT) in some contexts. The NH90 was developed in response to NATO requirements for a battlefield helicopter also capable of being operated in the naval environment. However, many of the customer countries have requested specific changes for their NH90s. The first prototype had its maiden flight in December 1995; the type began entering service in 2007. As of 2013, a total of thirteen nations have ordered the NH90 with deliveries starting in 2006. The programme had some technical and funding problems in the 1990s. Then partner nations placed a large production order for 366 helicopters in June 2000, soon followed by a series of orders from Europe, Asia, and Australia. The NH 90 programme ran into a 2-year production delay, and the first NH90s were delivered by late 2006. The type certification for the Finnish helicopters was finally approved on 19 February 2008.

NH90 of the Finnish Army Aviation

On 03/11/2008, NHIndustries announced the delivery of the first NH90 TTT (Tactical Troop Transport) helicopter to the Finnish Army Aviation. “The delivery took place at Eurocopter in Marignane (France) where the helicopter was assembled. Finland is replacing its ageing fleet of MI-8 helicopters with 20 tactical transport NH90. “We are particularly proud to deliver to Finland this advanced helicopter and are fully confident that Finland took the right decision regarding this choice, being sure that the NH90 will meet the stringent requirements of the Finnish armed forces, both in terms of mission capability as well as for its suitability for the management of international operations” said Gala Gonçalves, General Manager of NHIndustries. These helicopters are equipped with the most up to date technology (Fly-by-wire, composite materials, system integration) and equipment in terms of navigation, communications, flight aids and self protection. Of the 20 Finnish NH90 helicopters, 19 are to be assembled by Patria in Finland. The first Finnish NH90 assembled by Patria is to be delivered this April to the Finnish Army Aviation. The Finnish company Patria, a defence and aerospace group focusing on military aircraft and helicopter life cycle support services, is responsible for the final assembly of most of the NH90 helicopters ordered by Sweden and Finland, following an industrial cooperation agreement concluded in the frame of the Nordic Standard Helicopter Programme (NSHP). Under this cooperation Patria also produces some major NH90 structure components, is involved in the assembly of the NH90’s engines and will likewise be responsible for the maintenance and Repair & Overhaul of the Finnish NH90 fleet. The twin-engine, medium-size NH90 helicopter is provided by the consortium NHIndustries, the Company owned by AgustaWestland (32%), Eurocopter (62,5%), and Stork Fokker (5,5%). The NH90 helicopter programme is the largest ever launched in Europe, with firm orders now reaching 507 units to equip and modernize the Armed Forces of France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Greece, Oman, Australia, New-Zealand, Spain and Belgium. Final negotiation steps are yet under process with several other Defence Forces to secure contracts concerning additional NH90, both in the Tactical Transport and Naval versions.”

[2] See “Finland's Helicopter Programme (Administrator Keijo Suila's report) on the Finnish NH90 procurement of 1998-2008”. (01.03.2008) It has been a long road for Finland's NH90-TTH battlefield transport helicopter program. The 2001 Nordic Group contract was intended to replace Finland's 4 Russian Mi-8 medium helicopters and 8 MD500 light utility helicopters with 20 NH90s that would begin delivery in 2004 and enter service from April 2005 - October 2008, allowing a reorganized helicopter battalion to stand up in 2010. The common procurement action was directly linked to the establishment of the European Union's Nordic Battle Group (NBG), which also driving other defense buys in the region. A EUR 343 million deal for 20 helicopters was signed on Oct 19/01. First flight did not take place until Sept 15/04, however, and assembly has been years behind schedule. By October 2007, only 3 helicopters had been assembled, and Finland's Military Aviation Authority was still asking NHIndustries for supplementary technical data before it could issue a type certification that would allow them to enter service. The whole issue came to a head on Oct 19/07, when Finnish Defense Minister Jyri Hakamies appointed former Finnair CEO Keijo Suila to lead a working group and assess the program, determine what went wrong, and recommend changes to future procurement processes. A settlement with NHIndustries was reached on Dec 12/07, and now Suila has delivered his report... Under the settlement, Finland will receive just under EUR 20 million in late penalties. Deliveries will take place on a revised schedule: 5 NH90-TTH helicopters in 2008, 4 in 2009, and the remaining 11 in 2010-2011. The 9 helicopters delivered in 2008-2009 will not be fully operational, however, and will be used for training and development of concepts of operations. They will be upgraded to full capability by Patria in Finland during 2010-2011.

Suila's report was released to the Finnish public on March 4/08, and a summary was posted as part of a Ministry of Defence release. Key takeaways include a finding that both parties to the contract have been acting in good faith, that Finland received acceptable compensation of the delay in delivery, and that the choice of helicopter suits both Finland's needs and interoperability requirements for deployments abroad. With respect to areas for improvement, the Finnish Ministry of Defence release had an appropriate quote from the report: “The haste of the initial phase is usually a setback.” Risk assessment needs to be more fully developed, rules for communication need to be improved since this became a bottleneck at times, other areas of procurement policy also need to be streamlined, and more commonality in national aircraft certification processes needs to be developed in Europe. The full Suila report was made available in English on March 18/08.

[3] Army Command Finland coordinates the Army's cooperation with the Navy, Air Force, Border Guard and various authorities, and is responsible for the Army's international cooperation. Utti is a village in Kouvola, Finland. In 1789 the Battle of Utti took place there between Swedish and Russian forces. In 1918 General Carl Gustaf Mannerheim set up the first Finnish Air Force base in the village. Today, Utti is best known for the Utti Jaeger Regiment, a helicopter base and a training ground for special forces and military polices. (Source : Wikipedia).

[4] The Utti Jaeger Regiment is a Special Forces unit directly subordinate to the Commander of the Army. The regiment consists of the Command Headquarters, the Special Jaeger Battalion, the Helicopter Battalion, the Support Company and the Logistics Centre. The success of the Regiment is based on highly motivated personnel, modern combat materiel and high quality conscripts.

[5] The Finnish Defence Forces and the Finnish Border Guard have been using Mi-8s since the 1970s, with the Finnish Air Force receiving its first, serialed HS-2, on May 28, 1973, and the second, HS-1, on May 31, 1973. Six Mi-8Ts were obtained at first, followed by further two Mi-8Ts and two Mi-8Ps. Three of the helicopters were handed over to the Border Guard Wing. One of these was lost after sinking through ice during a landing in April 1982. It was soon replaced by a new Mi-8. After their Border Guard service, the helicopters were transferred to the civil register, but shortly thereafter to the Air Force. In 1997 it was decided that all helicopters, including the remaining five Mi-8Ts and two Mi-8Ps, should be transferred to the Army Wing at Utti. All Mi-8s have now been replaced with NH90 helicopters. One Mi-8 is on display at the Finnish Aviation Museum in Vantaa, and one is at the Päijänne Tavastia Aviation Museum in Asikkala, near Lahti. The two final Mi-8T copters were given to Hungary in 8/2011 with all remaining spare parts. Source : Wikipedia.

[6] Australia (January 2013): Army: 15 aircraft in inventory; Belgium (August 2013): Belgian Air Component: 1 aircraft delivered; Finland (August 2013): Army Aviation: 15 aircraft delivered; France (January 2013: Army : 3 aircraft and Navy: 7 aircraft; Germany (January 2013): Army: 23 aircraft; Greece (June 2013) Army: 6 aircraft; Italy (January 2013): Army: 19 aircraft and Navy: 3 aircraft; Netherlands (January 2013) Defence Helicopter Command : 7 aircraft; New Zealand (January 2013): Air Force: 3 aircraft; Norway (January 2013): Navy: 1 aircraft; Oman ((January 2013): Air Force: 10 aircraft; Spain (January 2013): No aircraft yet; Sweden (January 2013): Defence Force Helicopter Wing: 6 aircraft. Cancelled orders: Portugal and Saudi Arabia: Portugal was the fifth nation to join the programme with an order for ten transport NH90 in June 2001, to equip the Portuguese Army Light Aviation Unit. In 2012, the financial crisis led Portugal to cancel the order despite having already spent €87m on the project, in order to save another €420m in acquisition and running costs to 2020. Saudi Arabia: In July 2006, the Saudi Government agreed to purchase 64 NH90s. Then in October 2007 the government changed its plans, and agreed to buy 150 Russian-made Mi-35 and Mi-17 helicopters instead.

[7] The NH90 was initially intended to be produced at three exporting assembly lines; Cascina Costa (Italy) for AgustaWestland, Marignane (France) and Donauwörth (Germany) for Eurocopter. The Nordic and Australian contracts stipulated production locally (the Nordic ones at Patria (Finland) and the Australian ones (Brisbane). Spain has a final assembly line at Albacete.

[8] See “Patria nominated as Nordic NH90 Service Center by NH Industries” : Patria and NH Industries (NHI) have signed a NH90 Service Center Agreement enhancing their co-operation in the helicopter life-cycle support services for the Nordic customers. Through this agreement, Patria gets an official status to act as NHI authorized Nordic NH90 Service Center in Finland, Sweden and Norway in the agreed perimeter of activities. The Nordic NH90 Service Center status gives Patria an authorization to deliver most of NH90 spare parts for Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian customers. In addition, according to the agreement, Patria has an opportunity to be a logistic platform provider and to provide Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) services for Nordic customers in cooperation with NHI utilizing Patria's capabilities and competencies. (Source: Patria, 13.09.2013).

[9] One of its very first commanding officer, A.F. Colonel Jean-Luc Mathey, was just back from Helsinki were he served as Défense attaché in Finland.

McDonnell Douglas MD-500E

[10] The MD Helicopters MD 500 series is an American family of light utility civilian and military helicopters. The MD 500 was developed from the Hughes 500, a civilian version of the US Army's OH-6A Cayuse/Loach. The series currently includes the MD 500E, MD 520N, and MD 530F. Finnish Army Aviation uses Hughes 500 D and E helicopters in reconnaissance and training roles.

McDonnell Douglas MD-500D

[11] The Aviation Business Unit of Patria provides life cycle support services for aircraft and helicopters mainly for military customers and governmental authorities in the Northern European region. The life cycle support services cover maintenance, repair, and modification services as well as pilot training. Patria is a trusted provider of defence, security and aviation life-cycle support services and technology solutions. Patria is owned by the state of Finland (73.2%) and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, EADS N.V., (26.8%).

[12] Autopilot computers provide basic long-term stabilisation of the helicopter's altitudes, as well as basic pilot modes : heading, altitude and airspeed hold.

[13] See “L’escadron d'hélicoptères (EH) 01.67 « Pyrénées » de l'armée de l'Air” : Interview of LCL Fabien Gisbert, commanding the Helicopter squadron 1/67 (Cazaux, June 21, 2013).

[14] See Interview with LTG Arto Räty, Finnish Deputy Minister of Defence (to come soon).

[15] Both pilots and mechanics of the Caiman Helicopters (TTH versions of the NH90) of the Navy and Army will be formed at by the EALAT (ALAT School) in Le Luc where a French-German school for Tiger pilots already exists.

[16] See “Finland signs the contract for 20 NH90 helicopters” : On October 19, 2001, Mr. Jan-Erik Enestam, Minister of Defence of Finland, Mr. Eero Lavonen, National Armament Director, and Mr. Philippe Stuckelberger, General Manager of NHIndustries, signed the purchase contract for 20 NH90 helicopters. After two year’s competition, this follows the NSHP Committee recommendation in favour of the NH90 as the common helicopter, announced on 13 September 2001. Besides the Acquisition Contract the Finnish MOD and NHI signed the Side Agreement concerning the allocation of a NH90 final assembly line to Finland, as well as the Agreement on Industrial Participation giving Finnish defence industry the opportunity to participate in the manufacturing of parts and the assembly of purchased equipment. The 20 Finnish NH90 helicopters are in the Tactical Troop Transport configuration, derived from NAHEMA TTH version, and will be operated by the Finnish Defence Forces (Army Aviation) in the tactical transport and SAR roles. All the Finnish NH90 are equipped with the Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RRTM322-01/9 engine. First NH90 TTT helicopter will be delivered to Finnish Def ence Forces in late 2004, and the series will be completed at the Finnish assembly line specifically arranged in Patria Finavitec, in collaboration with NHIndustries, within the year 2008. This new contract with Finland increases the firm orders of the NH90 up to 291 units, and the options up to 62. More over France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, and The Netherlands, together with Finland, are ready to welcome Norway that is expecting to sign the supply contract for the NH90 within few weeks. NHIndustries, together with its Partner Companies, is very proud to announce this new success of the NH90 in particular to the five NH90 Programme participating Countries, which have largely contributed to the design, development, and qualification of this excellent helicopter system.

The first of 20 NH90 TTT delivered at Eurocopter’s Marignane facility

See also : Eurocopter. See also First NH90 for “Finnish Army Aviation delivered” : The first of 20 NH90 TTT (Tactical Troop Transport) for the Finnish Army Aviation was delivered on March 11 at Eurocopter’s Marignane facility. It will subsequently be stationed at the Utti Base of the Finnish Defence Forces. This first aircraft was assembled by Eurocopter, while the remaining 19 will be assembled by Patria in Finland... The NH90 is a latest-technology, twin-engine helicopter in the medium-size class. It has been designed from the outset as a multi-role weapons system. The tactical transport and naval variants of the helicopter share a common basic helicopter in a modular design. Dedicated, specialized mission equipment packages allow for maximum flexibility in operations. Special emphasis has been placed on features such as safety, reliability, availability, maintainability, testability and supportability. The diamond shape of the all-composite, corrosion-free airframe combines optimal aerodynamics with low detectability. Optimized man-machine interface significantly reduces pilot and crew workload. The NH90's superior handling qualities are enhanced by a fly-by-wire flight control system, making it the first production helicopter in the world to feature this advanced technology. The NH90 is qualified for day-and-night, all-weather operations. The NH90 program is managed by the industrial consortium NHIndustries consisting of Eurocopter (62.5%), AgustaWestland (32%) and Stork Fokker (5.5%). Source : Cécile Vion-Lanctuit (04/07/2008).

Useful links:

Finnish Army Aviation


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).