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NH90 Sea Tiger completes maiden flight towards Germany Navy service

Photo: Airbus Helicopters

The first NH90 Sea Tiger multi-role frigate helicopter has successfully conducted its maiden flight as it moves towards service with the German Navy.

The first NH90 Sea Tiger multi-role frigate helicopter has successfully conducted its maiden flight as it moves towards service with the German Navy.

The aircraft took the maiden flight at Airbus Helicopters’ site in Donauwörth, Germany, as it enters qualification phase focusing on flight testing and moves towards the delivery date scheduled to begin at the end of 2025.

The German Bundeswehr originally ordered 31 NH90 Sea Tiger multi-role frigate helicopters for the German Navy’s shipborne operations, to replace Mk88A Sea Lynx helicopters which entered into service in 1981.


The Sea Tiger is the latest version of the naval version NH90 NFH helicopter and is designed as an anti-submarine warfare helicopter with electro-optical system and improved electronic support measures, as well as dipping sonar, sonobuoys, torpedoes, and missiles.

“We are proud to equip the German Navy with the NH90 Sea Tiger. Operating both the NH90 Sea Lion and the Sea Tiger will allow the Navy to further streamline its operations and maintenance,” according to Airbus Helicopters Germany managing director Stefan Thomé.

“The NH90 Sea Lion, which is already in service with the Navy, has recently proven its capabilities during a first major rescue operation in the North Sea.”

The Bundeswehr already operates 18 NH90 Sea Lion naval transport helicopters, delivered between 2019 and 2023.

There are more than 500 NH90 helicopters in service worldwide that have accumulated over 370,000 flight hours, including 135 naval NH90 helicopters which have been delivered to six nations and completed more than 90,000 flight hours in search and rescue, humanitarian, and military operations.

Earlier this year in September, the Australian government announced that its own MRH-90 Taipan helicopters will not return to the skies, after the fleet was grounded pending investigations into the latest aircraft accident.

The Australian Defence Force military transport helicopters will not return to flying operations before their planned withdrawal date of December 2024.

They will instead be replaced by the introduction into service of the new fleet of UH‑60M Black Hawk helicopters. Three Black Hawk helicopters have already arrived in Australia and were scheduled to begin flying in September this year.

The fleet has been stood down since July when an MRH-90 helicopter crashed south of Hamilton Island while participating in Exercise Talisman Sabre.

Earlier this year in March, the ADF also temporarily paused training activities and grounded the MRH-90 Taipan fleet after a Taipan multi-role helicopter ditched into NSW waters during a routine counterterrorism training exercise.

The latest incidents follow suspended flying operations in June 2021 after issues were found relating to the aircraft’s IT support system, as well as a tail rotor vibration problem identified at HMAS Albatross in 2019.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles said advice provided to government has outlined that ongoing investigations into the Taipan are likely to continue well into 2024 and Defence will not fly the platform until investigations are complete.

“The MRH-90 has been an important capability for our country and Defence Force, and I recognise the hard work of the hundreds of people who dedicated themselves to acquiring, operating, and sustaining the aircraft,” he said.

“The first of the 40 Black Hawks that will replace the MRH-90 have arrived and are already flying in Australia. We are focused on seeing their introduction to service as quickly as possible.

“The government’s highest priority is the safety and wellbeing of our people.

“We continue to support the families of the four soldiers who lost their lives earlier this year, and the broader Defence community.”

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