With several systems and components dating back to the 1990s, the NH90 is approaching the midpoint of its planned lifespan. The MLU focuses on future-proofing the mission systems of the NH90, including both hardware and software updates. The modernization will encompass new communications equipment, an enhanced sonar system, and the integration of the new MK54 torpedo, already in use by the navy. Additionally, improvements will be made to electromagnetic surveillance and collection equipment, as well as support systems such as training resources, simulators, mission planning, analysis systems, and test equipment.
A key aspect of the update is the replacement of the outdated Link 11 tactical datalink system with Link 22, which offers more options and enhanced security. Link 22 is essential for sharing the vast amounts of data collected by the NH90 with other flying and sailing units and is also being adopted by NATO partners.
The MLU project emerges from a partnership between European countries, including Belgium, Germany, and Italy, and involves significant participation from the Dutch industry. The modernization work will primarily be carried out in the Netherlands by defence personnel and the Dutch industry, giving the defence ministry more control over planning and lead times.
The first NH90s are scheduled for modernization starting in 2028, with the upgraded helicopters expected to last an additional 15 years. The total investment budget for the ‘Midlife Update NH90 helicopter’ project is EUR 661.6 million, which includes a risk reserve. This substantial investment underscores the Netherlands’ commitment to maintaining a robust and technologically advanced maritime defence capability.