Best Singapore Aviation ShowThe New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) operates a fleet of eight Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH) variants of the NH90 helicopter, which reside under the command of the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s (RNZAF’s) 3 Squadron located at RNZAF Base Ohakea alongside five A109 Light Utility Helicopters (LUH). 3 Squadron is currently able to maintain 10 of its 12 helicopter crews to man the NH90s, each crew consisting of two pilots and a loadmaster.

European consortium NH Industries builds and supports NH90 helicopter fleets worldwide and it delivered the RNZAF’s units from 2012-2014. Since 2015 when the NH90s replaced the RNZAF’s 12 ageing UH-1H Iroquois helicopters the fleet has been able to achieve relatively high levels of aircraft availability. The latest statistics provided by the NZDF are that in 2022-23 the NH90s attained an average fleet serviceability of 75 percent and in February 2023 the fleet achieved an average 23 flying hours per aircraft.

This is up from the 2021-22 average of 71 per cent and far in excess of the levels of fleet availability achieved by other NH90 operators, which according to NHI averages at just 40 per cent. Generally, 3 Squadron usually has about five aircraft available for day to day operations, one will be in deep maintenance and another one or two aircraft in unscheduled maintenance. The Chief of Air Staff at NZDF HQ, Air Commodore AJ Woods, told APDR that the cost per flight hour for the RNZAF NH90s is NZ$1,400 and does not include workshop maintenance, salaries, depreciation and capital charges.

RNZAF Logistics Commander (Air) Group Captain Susie Barns told APDR: “Our NH90 fleet availability rates are largely due to our deliberate maintenance planning and forecasting, which in turn delivers serviceable aircraft to meet outputs. This maintenance team includes NZDF military, civilian and Airbus contractor staff. The RNZAF has the highest availability rates across the NH90 user community globally.”

This is an excerpt from APDR. To read the full story click here.

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    • I don’t know – and that’s the issue. Comparisons of cost per flying hour are completely meaningless unless you know precisely what is included. For example, I confidently predict that the actual cost per flying hour of an Apache is way more than a Tiger if they are measured the same way.

    • That figure probably pretty much only includes fuel that why it’s so cheap. It’s real flight cost hour would be at least 10 to 15 times that when all other factors are considered.
      MRH90 Taipan costs around $50,000 AUD according to latest figures, but that would include all the bells and whistles including depreciation and capital costs etc. (probably a slightly over inflated figure to justify it’s replacement as well).

      • The Australian figures are completely warped, partly because the MRH fleet has been grounded frequently – often for spurious reasons. Defence has a perverse financial incentive to do this because prime contractor Airbus has to cough up significant damages every time it happens.

  1. Link to the actual response from Air Commodore Woods.

    This statement above is false – “The latest statistics provided by the NZDF are that in 2022-23 the NH90s attained an average fleet serviceability of 75 percent”

    I also note you ignored the response regarding non-incorporation of a software fix for the overheating engines, which you speculated caused the recent ditching for Australia’s MRH90.

  2. Tell me where you see 75% availability in Air Commodore Woods written response to you?

    Copy of his letter attached above.

    • Availability rates for platforms are all over the place. As I have posted previously, the head of the USAF has told Congress that full mission availability rate for the F-35 fleet is 25%. Should F-35s be scrapped and replaced by WW2 Spitfires?

      • No, but perhaps we can stop trying to find edge cases where one particular country is temporarily beating the global trend in NH-90 serviceability.

        The appalling F-35 FMC rate will probably force the USAF to double down on F-15X, because having hundreds of unusable fighters sucking up billions of dollars in sustainment funding and millions of hours of maintenance is a good way to lose the next war.

        Actually, F-35 to F-15X is a pretty good analogy for the ADF pivot from MRH90 to UH-60M. The F-15X, like the UH-60M is a highly evolved version of a world-beating design with a global fleet of thousands of aircraft. The MRH90, like F-35, is fantastic and truly modern, but expensive and difficult to keep on line. (Spitfires would be akin to Chickasaws, maybe?)


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