The new helicopter was not safe enough, said the Air Force – NRK Troms and Finnmark

The reason why the Norwegian Air Force thought the helicopter was not safe enough is that it does not float. In the event of an emergency landing at sea, the crew has little time to get out.

But now the Air Force has turned around. The Minister of Defense is satisfied, despite the fact that the conclusion comes twenty years after the Navy had said the same. Last Tuesday, Bjørn Arild Gram (Sp) presented the news that the Norwegian Armed Forces will receive six Seahawk helicopters. A helicopter the Air Force did not want.

An American Seahawk MH-60R, the same type that Norway will buy, on board an Arleigh Burke-class warship, in 2019.


The Ministry of Defense points out that evaluations of maritime helicopter capacity have been carried out in recent years.

It has contributed to the fact that the defense sector, after enormous efforts in recent months, and in close dialogue with close allies who have a good base of experience with the helicopters, has been able to deliver a well-grounded recommendation, with good quality, in a short time, says Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram ( Q).

The land of distress in the Philippine Sea

The maritime helicopters will, among other things, be with the largest coast guard boats, and help make it easier to maintain control over our large sea areas. The Coast Guard has lacked this since 2014.

But the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea are tough sea areas.

In October 2021, an Australian Seahawk made an emergency landing in the Philippine Sea. The crew was only slightly injured. A nearby warship rescued them from the sea after twenty minutes.

– The quick reaction ensured that the flight crew was saved, and underlines the importance of the extensive training for such incidents, Rear Admiral Mark Hammond said according to the Australian Defense Force.

Wanted Seahawk in the Navy

Weighed against other considerations, the recommendation is to buy six Seahawk helicopters for NOK 12 billion.

According to the Air Force, it is the allies’ experience with the aircraft type that means they are now behind the purchase. Denmark has used the helicopter in a similar role for several years.

– The conclusion is that the Seahawk has a very small error rate, and together with our requirements for training, personal rescue equipment, as well as mounted external rafts, it is considered by our professionals to be adequate, says Lieutenant-Colonel Eivind Byre, who is head of communications in the Air Force.

Many in the Navy had reached this conclusion twenty years before the Air Force.

Ine Eriksen Søreide and Haakon Bruun-Hanssen go up the stairs

Former Chief of Defense Haakon Bruun-Hanssen says Seahawk helicopters have long been wanted in the Navy.

Photo: Øyvind Bye Skille / NRK

Former admiral Haakon Bruun-Hanssen himself has a navy background, and became chief of defense in 2013. It was a job he held until he retired almost three years ago.

He cannot answer why the Navy’s wish was not followed.

– I don’t know exactly. In an organization such as the Norwegian Armed Forces, there are many elements. Those who sit centrally and decide on procurement look at the whole between price and quality. In addition, cooperation with producers and industrial opportunities for Norway will play a role, says Bruun-Hanssen.

– But twenty years ago there was a clearly formulated desire from the Navy to go for the Seahawk?

– Whether it was clearly formulated can probably be debated, but it was at least a wish from many in the Navy to go for the Seahawk. It was a well-known system. In 2003 to 2004, people were of the opinion that buoyancy was not so critical, and that it was possible to do something about it, says Bruun-Hanssen.

Meeting at Bardufoss helicopter station about the future of the employees who work with NH-90

Meeting at Bardufoss helicopter station in August last year, about the future of those who work on NH-90.

Photo: Hanne Wilhelms / NRK

– Double stop on NH-90

The former chief of defense says the possibility of stopping the purchase of NH-90 has been considered earlier.

– But then the idea is that we will try a little more, see what other countries are doing, if we can learn from other nations, see if we can make it happen, but at one point or another it doesn’t work anymore, says Bruun-Hanssen .

Former fighter pilot in the Norwegian Armed Forces, helicopter pilot and aviation blogger Per Gram is highly critical of the way the Swedish Air Force has handled the case.

Per Gram

Per Gram believes the Air Force should have recommended the purchase of the Seahawk much earlier.


– Officers high up in the Air Force have doubted that NH-90 is the right choice, this has been a reprehensible process, says Gram.

He supports the government’s decision to acquire the Seahawk, and believes it has been wrong to disqualify the helicopter because of its buoyancy.

– The crews who will fly these machines are highly trained people, who know how to act in the event of an emergency landing. It is also not a given that the helicopter will descend immediately. I think Seahawk is the right choice, says Per Gram.

– Recommendation with good quality

NRK has asked the Ministry of Defense how to characterize the work the Air Force has done to find the right helicopter:

The Armed Forces, with the support of Defense Materials and the Defense Research Institute, have worked quickly and delivered a recommendation of good quality, replies Bjørn Arild Gram (Sp).

The Air Force has also been asked how they assess the work that was done when the Seahawk was wrecked.

– All candidates have advantages and disadvantages. The government’s decision to acquire the Seahawk is firmly rooted in the Air Force. We believe it will provide the capacity we need to be able to support the Coast Guard in asserting Norwegian sovereignty and control over our sea areas, says Lieutenant Colonel Eivind Byre.

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