MELBOURNE, Australia --- The competition to supply 24 helicopters to the Australian Navy has gained momentum with a Eurocopter team making an impressive display before senior defense officials and Canberra-based NATO ambassadors. Using an NH90 borrowed from the Italian Navy, the team put the helicopter through a comprehensive demonstration of its performance.
At stake is an AUD3.5 billion order for maritime helicopters to replace the existing fleet of 16 S-70B Seahawks and the cancelled order for SH-2 Seasprites. The NH90 is competing with the Sikorsky MH-60R for this requirement. It is the more expensive of the two options, about AUD50 million each compared with AUD30 million to AUD40 million for the MH-60R.
While Sikorsky is expected to emphasize the benefits of a less-expensive, fully imported helicopter, Australian Aerospace says at least 700 full-time jobs will be created if the Royal Australian Navy buys its aircraft. Australian Aerospace also stresses that the NH90 is the most advanced of its type in the world and incorporates some of the latest advances in aircraft safety. It is able to float for up to 15 minutes in rough seas in the event of a ditching - time enough to allow the crew to escape.
The NH90 team is also making great play of its formidable weapons system that allows it to sink large warships with its Marte Mark2-S anti-shipping missiles. These have a range of 35 kilometers.