The Belgian Navy's 40th Squadron has reached initial operational capability with three new NH90 Nato frigate helicopters (NFH), enhancing the country's search and rescue capabilities.
The new helicopters are expected to replace the existing Sea King helicopters in the search and rescue (SAR) role by 2018. The fourth NH90 is expected to be delivered next year.
The Belgian Ministry of Defence said that the next training phase will commence for the initial operational capability for maritime operation as part of the last stage of initial operational provision.
This phase is designed to allow crew members to board helicopters aboard frigates.
The Belgian Navy ordered eight NH90s, with four TTH variants being used for tactical transport operations and the remaining four NFH versions are set to support naval missions.
Specifically designed to conduct autonomous, as well as anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare missions, the NH90 NFH variant can also be used to perform search-and-rescue, maritime patrol, vertical replenishment, troop transport, medical evacuation and amphibious support.
The helicopter features a deck-lock system, deck-traversing system, and the automatic blade and tail folding system, which enables the aircraft to operate from small frigates, during day and night, as well as in adverse weather conditions.
The twin-engine, medium-size NH90 helicopter has also been selected by France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Greece, Oman, Australia, New-Zealand, and Spain.
The TTH tactical transport helicopter achieved operational capability in May.
Image: The Belgian Navy's 40th Squadron has reached initial operational capability for NH90 Nato frigate helicopters. Photo: courtesy of Belgian MoD.