I've known for some years that the NH-90 military helicopter, produced as a joint project by several NATO nations, has been less than satisfactory in service, and has been plagued by problems.
However, I wasn't aware of just how many problems there were. StrategyPage reports:
For example in 2009 the German Army conducted an evaluation of their new NH90 helicopters and found that for combat missions another model helicopter should be used whenever possible. A particular problem was the lack of ground clearance. The NH-90 could not land on a piece of ground with any obstacles higher than 16 cm (6.4 inches). That makes many battlefield landing zones problematic. That assumes you could even get on a NH90 and find a seat. The passenger seats could hold more than 110 kg (242 pounds). Combat equipment for German troops weighs 25 kg (55 pounds), meaning any soldier weighing more than 85 kg (187) has to take stuff off, put it on the floor, than quickly put it back on before exiting. Then there's the floor, it was not very sturdy and combat troops using the helicopter for a short while cause damage that takes the helicopter out of action for repairs. Worse, there is the rear ramp. It could not support troops carrying all their equipment, making it useless for rapid exits of combat troops. There was not enough room in the passenger compartment for door gunners. There were no strap downs for larger weapons, like portable rocket launchers or anti-aircraft missiles. The passenger compartment also did not allow for carrying cargo and passengers at the same time. The winch was not sturdy enough for commandoes to perform fast roping operations. And so on.
Most of these problems have since been fixed, sort of, but the winch is still a problem. It’s so bad that only four of the 39 NH90s the army has are available for combat. Originally Germany ordered 122 NH90s at a cost of over $50 million each. Because of all the problems and continued cuts in the defense budget most of those on order were cancelled. The ten ton NH-90 can carry 21 troops or twelve casualties on stretchers, plus the crew of two. It first flew in 1995. The manufacturer is a consortium of French, German, Dutch and Italian firms, and has promised to fix all the problems. The Germans and Australians noted that, when it worked, the NH90 worked well. In 2010 Australia received eight of the 50 NH90 helicopters it ordered, and was not happy with the aircraft's performance. The overall complaint was poor reliability, design and durability. Many more spare parts have to be stocked than was originally planned. There have been long waits to get needed spares from the manufacturer (NHIndustries). Called the MRH90 in Australian service, the experience was similar to what the Germans encountered with their NH90s.
There's more at the link, and in Wikipedia's discussion of problems with the NH-90.
The astonishing thing is that despite all these long-standing problems, Germany and other NATO countries have continued to buy NH-90's, instead of canceling their contracts and looking for a better-performing helicopter. That's the fruit of 'European-mindedness'. They all got together to develop a European solution to their helicopter needs, rather than buy a one-nation solution such as the US Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk or the French-designed Eurocopter AS532 Cougar (a descendant of the Aerospatiale AS-330 Puma, with which I became very familiar during South Africa's bush war, and which South Africa developed into the Oryx, a local equivalent of the Cougar).
Because the NH-90 is a multinational effort, there's tremendous political pressure on the military services of the nations involved to continue to spend their money on European products rather than those from other countries. It would be considered a political setback (to put it mildly) if they had to concede that a European-made product simply wasn't up to the standards required for military service. However, I'm afraid that if I were wearing uniform again, and told that I'd have to rely on NH-90's for support, I'd be begging, borrowing and stealing anything and everything else I could lay my hands on, rather than trust the unreliable NH-90's to pull my ass out of the fire if it came to that - politics and politicians be damned!
There's also the problem of wanting to 'push the envelope'. That gets expensive in a hurry - new, often experimental technology is a lot more costly than older, proven technology. The US Marines' emphasis on the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey is a case in point. I agree that its speed has revolutionized helicopter tactics, and given the Marines a whole new capability: but was it worth the cost? A single V-22 costs well over $70 million. It's had to battle increased maintenance costs and downtime (inevitable, given its very complex technology), and although that situation has improved, the running costs of the V-22 remain considerably higher than, say, the UH-60. I'm not at all certain that the purchase of this 'gold-plated' platform was economically justifiable, given the way the Marines' budget is being stripped to afford this and other ultra-expensive aviation platforms (such as the F-35B), leaving far too little money available to re-equip ground combat units. Furthermore, I'm not sure that the improvement in tactical capability conferred by the V-22 justifies its cost. Personally, I'd have bought double the number of conventional helicopters, which would still have saved billions of dollars. I'd have used the money thus saved for other equipment (such as the now-canceled replacement for the AAV-P7A1, which is over 40 years old, outdated and just plain worn out, despite numerous updates).
The NH-90 is a textbook example of political correctness trumping military effectiveness. Will any lessons be learned from this catastrophic program in future? I doubt it . . . after all, politicians are involved.