Defense industry

The purchase of Agusta helicopters in Denmark, "unprofessional"?

(B2) “Unprofessional”. This is the term used by the Danish Court of Auditors (Rigsrevisionen), in a investigation report published Wednesday, proposing the purchase of 14 Agusta EH-101, SAR (Search and Recue) helicopters, resulting from an agreement concluded in May 1999. A better negotiation was possible, believe the auditors.

A poorly conducted negotiation
The purchase of this equipment cost a total of 3 billion Danish crowns (approx. 400 million euros) but did not meet all expectations. Lack of documentation, weakness of negotiation, failure to take certain risks into account, failure to include repair clauses or reservations in the contract... the list of imperfections seems to justify this harsh observation.

Helicopters more expensive and less available
If the first helicopter was delivered in 2005, the last could only be delivered at the beginning of 2007, that is to say “1 year behind the provisional delivery plan” notes the report. They were only able to be operational 30% of the time until 2008 (50% from the beginning of this year, thanks to a specific effort by the military)! The promised availability rate of 80% and 400 flight hours per year is thus not respected (but it does not seem to be surrounded by sufficient guarantees for a claim from the manufacturer). At the request of the British defense, lacking helicopters, six of them were transferred to Great Britain, which means that (Danish) transport needs cannot be completely met by 2010. And to ensure the “search and rescue” function, it was necessary to use old S-61 helicopters. Furthermore, the ministry “only really evaluated the acquisition costs and very little the operating costs”. Thus, maintenance costs have exploded, double what was initially planned.

The Minister of Defense now has two months to respond to this report and indicate how to avoid the repetition of such cascading, costly errors... A new negotiation with the supplier Agusta-Westland on certain non-respected guarantees – with supporting financial claim – is under study.

To download the report (in Danish), click here


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).