Rebuilding Spain’s NH90 helicopter fleet is essential to enhancing its military

Spain’s Enhanced NH90 Helicopter Fleet Bolsters Armed Forces Capabilities

Introduction of NH90 Helicopters

Spain’s acquisition of the NH90 helicopters marks a significant enhancement in its military aviation capabilities. The relationship between Spain and the NH90 began in 2006 with the purchase of the first batch, which included 15 helicopters for the Spanish Army and six for the Spanish Air Force. By 2018, Spain approved a second batch of 23 NH90s, incorporating seven naval Maritime Spanish Tactical Transport Helicopter (MSPT) variants designed to support the Spanish Navy in multi-purpose tactical transport missions, even under adverse weather conditions and at night.

Deployment and Capabilities

The NH90s serve various critical missions:

  • Spanish Air Force: Based with the 48th Wing in Madrid, the NH90s are utilized for personnel recovery, combat rescue, special operations, medical evacuations, and search and rescue (SAR) missions. Major Cristina Pampliega of the 803rd Squadron highlights significant improvements in speed, load capacity, flight time, and range compared to the previous Super Puma helicopters.
  • Spanish Army: The NH90, dubbed “Sarrio,” has significantly enhanced tactical transport, aerial assault, and special operations. General Pablo Muñoz Bermudo notes the NH90’s reliability in hostile environments, exemplified by its deployment in Mali. The NH90s are being integrated with other army systems, optimizing features such as ballistic protection, electronic warfare systems, and advanced loading mechanisms.

Spanish Navy’s NH90 MSPT Variant

The naval MSPT variant, an evolution of the Army’s NH90 Standard 3, features reinforced landing gear, a maximum take-off weight of 11 tonnes, and integrated vessel/helicopter tracking systems. The MSPT also includes an automatic blade and tail folding system, enhancing safety and efficiency for onboard technicians. The delivery of the first MSPT in 2024 will significantly augment the Navy’s strategic capabilities.

Development of NH90 HSPN Anti-Submarine Helicopter

Airbus Helicopters has proposed the NH90 HSPN, a new anti-submarine variant for the Spanish Navy, aligning with the Defence Industrial Strategy 2023. This initiative emphasizes national industrial involvement, with Spanish companies like Indra, Tecnobit, and Navantia participating. The HSPN will offer a modern, fully tested, and certified product, ready for deployment in various naval scenarios.

Technical and Operational Excellence

The NH90, developed by NHIndustries (a collaboration between Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo, and Fokker Aerostructures), meets multiple national and international standards. It features innovations such as a four-channel fly-by-wire control system, making it the first helicopter globally equipped with full fly-by-wire flight controls. The NH90 is produced in two main variants: the Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH) and the NATO Frigate Helicopter (NFH), both designed to operate in demanding battlefield and naval environments.


The incorporation of NH90 helicopters across Spain’s military branches represents a quantum leap in operational capability, safety, and versatility. These helicopters enhance Spain’s readiness and response capabilities, ensuring robust performance across diverse and challenging missions. As Spain continues to integrate and develop these advanced aircraft, the NH90 fleet stands as a testament to the nation’s commitment to maintaining a modern and effective defense force.

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