25 September 2009
NFH-90 helicopter (photo : Aviation Week)
"I just want a competition" - these were the words said repeatedly by Australian Aerospace boss Jens Goenneman at a media breakfast last week when asked about what the company would be up to in regard to Air 9000 Phase 8.
The NFH will be going up against the Lockheed Martin MH-60R to replace the Seahawks and the ill-fated Seasprites, ‘a matter of urgency' according to the 2009 White Paper.
"Not having a competition between the two contenders would be cheating on the Australian tax payer and workers," Goenneman said.
Goenneman outlined why the argument that the NFH is high risk in terms of schedule and compatibility with other Australian assets doesn't hold up.
The Dutch and French forces will have their choppers in the air by the time the Australian Navy needs their platforms.
There was even talk that the French government was flexible with their delivery dates, allowing Australia to access an NFH by this time next year, straight off the production line, or an Australianised variant by mid 2011.
And since the AWD final design review isn't due until the end of the year, arguing that the NFH won't be compatible with the class seems a little premature.
The extension of the MRH90 production line in Brisbane from 2014 out to 2020 (and another 500 jobs) for 24 to 27 choppers will also be something to consider.