In the year 2000, a production contract was signed, by the Dutch MoD, for 20 NH90 NFH (NATO Frigate Helicopter) maritime helicopters. The so-called N2 helicopters were bought to replace the ageing fleet of Westland Lynx helicopters that was in use by the Royal Netherlands Navy since 1976. The NH90 was developed and is manufactured by NHIndustries, a collaborative company, which is owned by Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo and Fokker Aerostructures. The first prototype conducted its maiden flight in December 1995; the type first entered operational service in 2007. In 2010, The Netherlands became the first country to receive the NFH variant.
All 20 NH90s are stationed at the De Kooy Naval Air Station. There are two squadrons, 7 squadron for training, and the 860 squadron which is the operational NH90 squadron. Both squadrons are covered by the Defense Helicopter Command (DHC) which consists of both Air Force and Navy personnel. The Navy indicates where they want capacity and the DHC can make an offer based on availability. In the planning cell, supply and demand are coordinated.
We spoke to 860 squadron commander Niels Kleingeld and Captains Gerwin and Thijs. Commander Kleingeld explains: “We look at the importance of deployments. Of course, the Navy wants to have a helicopter with them in the Dutch Caribbean and for anti-piracy missions, but also for large preparation moments of ships to get ready for the mission area.” There are people from the Navy as well as from the Air Force that go to fly the NH90, or work as a crew member.