Following Germany’s parliamentary approval of €2.7 billion ($3.2 billion) funding to purchase 31 NH Industries NH90 helicopters for the Deutsche Marine (German navy), an order was placed with the industrial consortium on November 26 by the NATO Helicopter Management Agency (NAHEMA), the contracting agency acting on behalf of the German armed forces. These aircraft will be of the NATO Frigate Helicopter (NFH) variant, and will be known as the Sea Tiger in German service.
The Sea Tiger was announced as the chosen helicopter to replace the navy’s 22 aging Westland Sea Lynx Mk 88As in August 2019, following evaluation against the Leonardo AW159 Wildcat and Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk. The Sea Tigers are expected to be delivered from 2024/25 for assignment to the Marinefliegergeschwader (naval air wing) 5 based at Nordholz, near Cuxhaven on Germany’s North Sea coast, with at least one earmarked for trials duties at the principal German trials establishment at Manching in southern Germany.
In service, the primary tasking for the Sea Tiger will be to deploy aboard the Deutsche Marine’s Sachsen- and Baden Württemburg-class frigates, and the new MKS 180 frigates expected to commission from 2027, to provide a multi-role helicopter capability, including anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, search and rescue, cover for boarding parties and maritime policing activities, and vertical replenishment. Equipped with search radar, active dipping sonar and the Leonardo LEOSS-T electro-optical/laser designation system, the Sea Tigers will be armed with the lightweight MU90 torpedo, guided missiles, and guns.
Acquisition of the Sea Tiger follows a June 2015 order for the Naval Transport Helicopter (NTH) version of the NH90 to replace MFG 5’s other helicopter type, the Westland Sea King Mk 41A. Eighteen NTHs—known as the Sea Lion in German service—are being delivered to serve in a variety of transport and search and rescue roles, including transport for special forces. While mostly based ashore, the Sea Lions will also operate from the three Berlin-class combat support vessels.
The first was handed over to the Deutsche Marine in October last year, but following documentation issues it was not officially cleared for service until June 25 this year. Deliveries are due to be completed by the end of 2022.
Airbus Helicopters is the majority shareholder in NH Helicopters. The company was established in 1992 to be the prime contractor to NAHEMA through a partnership with Italy's Agusta (now Leonardo) and Stork Fokker Aerospace (now Fokker Aerostructures) of the Netherlands.