France will coordinate a European project for a new generation “medium” helicopter

In November 2020, France joined the NGRC project [Next Generation Rotorcraft Capabilities – Capacités Giravion de nouvelle génération] that NATO had just launched with Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom and Greece.

This NGRC project proposed to develop a solution to meet future utility helicopter needs “by taking advantage of a wide range of recent advances in technology, production methods and operational concepts”. And, for France [comme pour l’Allemagne, l’Italie et la Grèce]it was then a question of preparing, without delay, the succession of the NH-90 “Caiman” helicopter.

Less than three years later, the European Union [UE] unveiled a list of eleven new projects to benefit from funding under the Permanent Structured Cooperation [CSP]. And one of them joins NATO’s NGRC since, called NGMH [Next Generation Medium Helicopter]it aims to develop a “new generation medium helicopter”.

This project “aims to create a forum that will meet operational needs, both on the upgrade of existing fleets and on the new generation European helicopter, by harmonizing needs between EU countries”, explains the European Defense Agency [AED].

“The NGMH will ensure the availability and adequacy of EU helicopter fleets until 2040” as well as “the preparation of the next generation European helicopter”, with the need to “address conflicts of high intensity”, she continues, without specifying the amount of the envelope allocated to this project… which will be coordinated by France, with the participation of Italy, Sweden and Finland.

A priori, and as for NATO’s NGRC, two manufacturers should play a major role in this “PESCO” project: Airbus Helicopters and Leonardo, which have already collaborated within NHIndustries, the consortium which produces the NH-90 Caiman . In addition, both participate in the program [civil] Clean Sky 2, with the Racer and NextGenCTR respectively.

In January 2021, Jérôme Combe, Head of Strategy at Airbus Helicopters, defended the idea of a rapprochement with Leonardo, on the occasion of a conference of the Royal Aeronautical Society. Indeed, he felt that it was “undesirable to have two major European helicopter manufacturers competing in a declining military market”.

However, Mr. Combe had underlined, “without cooperation, we take the risk of not reaching the critical mass to obtain the return on investment necessary for the marketing of a new device”. And to add that it would be possible to “unite” the forces within the framework of a program financed by the European Defense Fund [FEDEF].

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