Text & Pictures: Serge Van Heertum © sbap 2014

Koksijde rescue received his new baby… No more talking about it, it is a fact. The new NH-90 NFH (RN02) arrived at Koksijde airbase on Friday May 11 right from Donauwörth escorted by its predecessor, the Westland Seaking MK48. The RN01 is still at Marignanne regarding the training of the flight and technical crews.

One week later on May 16 this new helicopter was introduced officially in presence of the Minister of Defence Pieter De Crem, high defence authorities and national media.

After the introduction of Col Avi Hillewaert, the Minister took the stand and summarized this project, which holds him dear, and of which the first stone was layed with this arrival.

Mister De Crem emphasized on the replacement of the Seaking with his venerable age of almost 40 years, and its necessary and imperative relief as to continue to fulfil their missions. The most known to the public are undeniably the SAR (Search & Rescue) missions, but also the anti-piracy missions as presently flown along the Somalian coasts.

The advent of the NH-90 NFH will enable the helicopter to be embarked on the Belgian navy frigates as well as on the frigates of our Dutch neighbors and vice versa. This demonstrates also the internationalization of the missions allotted to the helicopter crews at Koksijde. To conclude Mr De Crem wished a great success with this helicopter which will allow to keep up the high quality and know how on the matter within the Air Force.

Thereafter Col Avi Vandezande gave a brief overview on the evolution of the NH-90 project. The first NFH (Navy Frigate Helicopter) has rejoined the two TTH (Tactical Transport Helicopter) which arrived some months earlier. The Colonel emphasized on the benefits of the NH-90 compared to the Seaking regarding the high technological equipment as the SX16 Nightsun (high power light beam for night searches), the 360° tactical naval radar or the Data Link system. The fact the TTH and NFH are built on the same basis is also an invaluable asset for maintenance purposes or spare parts.

The media often highlight the significant delays as regarded to the deliveries. There were indeed some production delays, but overall there is nothing to worry about on the international timeline of the project. The Belgian authorities assessed still to be within the habitual standards for a project of this size.

Belgium joined the NAHEMO in 2006 and in June 2007 the authorities signed a contract for the acquisition of 8 helicopters of the two types, the delivery of an initial stock of spare parts and tooling, and the complete training of crews and technicians.

The first TTH was officially delivered in December 2012 and the first NFH in August 2013.

To conclude a user of the NH-90 NFH, Maj Avi Geerts recapitulated on the subject and compared the good old Seaking to the gleaming NH-90. Despite a great number of positive points technologically speaking, the Seaking will forever in the history of the Air Force remain as a sturdy and reliable helicopter.

But some new trained crews on the new one seemed unanimous, they will be able to fulfill a good job and take over the various tasks of its predecessor.

Kolonel Vli Hillewaert, Mister Pieter de Crem MOD and Colonel Avi Vandezande

The Belgian NH90 situation on May 16th, 2014

Major Avi Geerts

Seaking

Sturdy
Reliable
40 years old
Analogic cockpit
Old technologies
Operationally limited (weather, visibility…)

NH-90 NFH
Easy equipment verification
Powerful engine
Better maneuverability
Infrared camera systems
Digital cockpit
For the operations:
Marine 360° radar
Electronically auto protection
Navy ship landing capacities


The great interest for this brand new guardian angel Before starting
The 360° Tactical Naval Radar The radar and the specific latch hook for ship deck
On the beach for a demonstration The Seaking and the Sea Lion... name given by Airbus Helicopter
During some months, the old one and the new one will work hand by hand Not sure that "Sea Lion" will remain the name of the NH90
The NFH will also take the place of the Alouette III,
but this one will be retired around 2020
As from mid 2015 the Seaking and NH90 NFH will ensure
the missions toegether.The final retirment of the Seaking is planned in 2016

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