German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen has defended the country’s investment in NH90 military transport helicopters, which have encountered many technical problems in recent years.
Von der Leyen has been on a summer tour of Germany’s military bases in order to take stock of military hardware and inspect troops, as part of an effort to counter concerns that the country is underprepared and its defence sector underfunded. Deutsche Welle reports that at a base in Niederstetten, the minister witnessed a demonstration involving six NH90 military transport helicopters, four paratroopers and around 60 infantry soldiers.
Following the demonstration, von der Leyen commented on Germany’s controversial use of the NH90 helicopters, including plans to acquire more by 2031, and defended their use against reports of ongoing technical problems.
What are the problems with NH90 helicopters?
A number of recent incidents have caused some to question the efficacy of NH90 helicopters. NH90s were deployed for 16 months on a United Nations mission in Mali, but were grounded when stress marks were discovered in the engine of one craft. Further, engine failure forced another NH90 into an emergency landing, and all of the aircraft were withdrawn from service in Mali at the end of their deployment in Mali in July.
However, the German army continues to rely heavily on the helicopters, with Major Andre Benker telling DW that the craft are “so important” because they “can transport personnel, drop off paratroopers, be used for search and rescue, and be used to provide protection to companies they accompany.”
Von der Leyen concurred, saying that the money spent on the NH90 had already paid off and is supported by military personnel. She dismissed criticism about Germany’s military spending, saying: “We can say that the NH90 has proved its worth… It’s good to hear from the soldiers that it’s a helicopter that is highly respected, and has shown in operations what extraordinary capabilities it has.”