Seven defense ministers must answer for the helicopter ride

Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen (H) and six predecessors must meet for an open hearing at the Parliament on the scandal purchase of new helicopters for the Armed Forces.

– There is no doubt that this is a very special case, says the head of the Control and Constitutional Committee Dag Terje Andersen (AP) before the hearing the following Monday.

– There is reason to be aware of a certain turmoil over the routines, concludes the chairman Hans Fredrik Grøvan (KrF).

The 14 NH90 helicopters that the Ministry of Defense decided to purchase in 2001 were to be delivered in the years 2005–2008. Ten years later, Norway has eight machines. Six of them can only be used for exercise.

In addition, the number of flight hours is dramatically lower than assumed due to an unforeseen major need for maintenance. And still there are delays. Only in 2022 is the latest delivery scheduled, although no one today can say with certainty either.

Inadequate information

The grove wants to know what the orders knew about the danger of delays.

– This was a helicopter that had never been produced before. What assessments were made and were these judgments sufficiently adequate? he asks.

The OAG’s report came in October last year. It puts a large part of the responsibility on the manufacturer, NATO Helicopter Industries (NHI), but also clearly states that on the Norwegian side there have been poor preparations, inadequate follow-up, weak management and little effective coordination.

– The realities of the matter are serious in themselves. In addition, the OAG has pointed out insufficient information to the Parliament, including failing information on the consequences for the country’s defense capabilities. This is serious, says Andersen to NTB.

Unrest for routines

The hearing opens with a professional military section that is topped with Chief of Defense Haakon Bruun-Hanssen.

The defense ministers who have to answer for the scandal purchase are Bjørn Tore Godal (AP), Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen (AP), Grete Faremo (AP), Espen Barth Eide (AP), Ine Eriksen Søreide (H) and then the current defense minister Bakke- Jensen (H). Kristin Krohn Devold (H) comes for her own consultation on Wednesday next week for practical reasons.

Grøvan warns that he will not let Bakke-Jensen escape, even though KrF has now become a government partner.

– It is worrying when the Defense Minister says that the follow-up has followed the routines one usually has. Then there is reason to worry about whether the routines for this kind of procurement of NOK 11 billion are good enough, says Grøvan to NTB.

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