Two Landmark European Programs

In the late 1980s, multinational defense projects were born. The European defense industry was reorganized in order to meet the needs of its military customers. At the same time, industrial groups were formed according to specializations. These changes in the industry resulted in two landmark European helicopters programs: the Tiger and the NH90.

 Eurocopter / G. Deulin

The Tiger has now been in service since 2005 for training pilots, and the first NH90 has been accepted by the German Army. This then is an auspicious moment for Eurocopter and its partners to consider some of the lessons they’ve learned from the two European cooperation programs.

In these types of programs, the key factors to success are the federation of development and industrialization budgets, the standardization of systems, close cooperation between partners, and the production of large-scale series with harmonized specifications.
But managing these programs is still quite complex: the decision-making entities include representatives from several different countries (three countries for the Tiger, five for the NH90 core program) and a large number of suppliers and industrial partners participate in the work.
The programs can get bogged down by lengthy harmonization procedures between the customer countries, and also between the industrial partners.

What’s more, the complexity of the weapon and mission systems, whose specifications vary from one country to another, has resulted in 25 variants for the NH90.
And furthermore, the highly innovative technology implemented on the NH90, such as the fly-by-wire controls, has only added to the complexity.
Despite all this, news about the two helicopter programs has spread well beyond the borders of Europe, and many armed forces throughout the world (see articles about the Tiger and about the NH90) have opted for the NH90. What was originally a European program has now blossomed into an international success story.


Industrial cooperation efforts in European programs such as the Tiger and the NH90 encourage the integration of industries and armed forces. Such programs often result in the formation of European system integrators.
Certain industries must concentrate their efforts on their unique specialties, and leave other activities to other partners in the program.
These cooperative efforts also make it possible to establish a presence in customer countries, which is often a decisive element for winning current and future contracts.