Friday, 19 April 2013

NZ Navy buys reject Aussie Seasprite Helicopters

NZ Navy buys SH2-G (I)  Seasprites rejected by Australia

Fairfax News:

The navy is to get eight new Seasprite helicopters that were originally built for the Australians but rejected by them.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said the Government had approved the purchase of the upgraded and expanded Seasprite helicopter fleet.

They will be bought from the United States company Kaman Aerospace for $242 million, which includes two spare airframes, a training simulator, missiles, and additional components.

"The Defence Force currently has five Seasprites which have been in service since the late 1990s and are due for replacement," Coleman said.

The new helicopters are an upgraded variant, the Seasprite SH-2G(I).

The larger fleet will allow helicopters to be placed on board the frigates Te Mana and Te Kaha as well as on the offshore patrol vessels and the multi-role HMNZS Canterbury, he said.

"These helicopters come with modernised sensor, weapons and flight-control systems and will be a major boost to our maritime surveillance and search capability," Coleman said.

"The helicopters will also ensure that our naval fleet is able to operate at its full potential."


The choppers have had a chequered past but the purchase is seen as a bargain on this side of the Tasman.

They were originally built for the Australian Defence Force, but in 2009 the Australian government cancelled the contract and decided not to introduce them into service after questions about their suitability for Australia's requirements.

"The New Zealand Defence Force and Ministry of Defence officials are acutely aware that the Australian government decided not to fully introduce these aircraft into service after concerns about a range of technical issues," Coleman said.

"As a consequence, the Ministry of Defence has invested considerable resources into examining all aspects of this project over the last two years.

"This included commissioning an independent study by Marinvent Corporation of Canada.

"Ministry of Defence officials have advised the government this aircraft will prove a very capable purchase, meet all of the New Zealand Defence Force's requirements, and can be introduced into service."

Based on that advice and after looking at other replacement options the Government approved the project.

"The replacement Seasprites will have a multiplier effect on the capability of the navy and what's more, the price is very good with alternative helicopter replacements costing three times the amount," Coleman said.

This was first reported in the media (Naval Technology in June 2012):

Kaman is set to begin negotiations with the New Zealand Government for the possible sale of 11 SH-2G(I) Super Seasprite helicopters to the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) following authorisation from the US Department of State.

The recent approval will allow New Zealand defence officials to seek better options for their future maritime helicopter requirements, although no investment decisions have been made yet by either party.
The possible sale includes a full motion flight simulator, training aids, spares inventory, publications and the introduction into service and through life support of the aircraft for the New Zealand Government.

The latest version of the multi-mission maritime helicopter of the SH-2G Super Seasprite, Kaman SH-2G(I) will boost New Zealand's vertical lift capabilities and replace its existing ageing SH-2G Seasprite helicopter fleet. In addition to providing exceptional performance and low operating costs, the SH-2G(I) aircraft will support the New Zealand Ministry's objective to enhance naval helicopter capabilities through to 2025.

Capable of operating from offshore patrol vessels, the new capability will also play a vital national role in extended reach, surveillance, and air-delivered weapons capabilities for the ANZAC frigates.

The SH-2G features fully-integrated, multi-mission maritime weapon system and has been designed to support anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW), over the horizon targeting, surveillance, troop transport, vertical replenishment, search and rescue, as well as utility missions.

In May 2012, the RNZN conducted Kaman SH-2G Seasprite helicopter flight trials from its new Protector-class offshore patrol vessel (OPV), HMNZS Otago (P148) in the Hauraki Gulf and the Bay of Plenty areas.
The RNZN currently operates five SH-2G Super Seasprite helicopters.

In 1997, Australia signed an $A 667 million contract with Kaman to purchase 11 upgraded SH-2G (A) “Super Seasprites,” with modernized avionics. This compact helicopter design was thought to be well suited to operation from the RAN’s ANZAC Class frigates, and even from patrol boats with helicopter decks. The first helicopter was unveiled in 2003, but by 2005 up to 40 deficiencies had been identified including inability to operate in bad weather and low-light conditions, and inability to meet Australian airworthiness certification standards. Placing modern avionics into a 1960s air-frame proved challenging indeed; the helicopters were restricted to “passenger and supply transport in good weather” in 2005, then grounded in May 2006.


By 2007, the project was 6 years behind schedule, costs had risen over 50% to $A 1.1 billion (about $900 million) for 11 helicopters, and the program was being used as a case study in the Australian Defence College’s leadership and ethics course. It’s estimated that at least $A 45 million more and 29 months of work was be required to make them serviceable, with full operational status unlikely until at least 2010. In 2007, Australia’s Liberal Party government elected to continue the Super Seasprite program – but their successor Labor government reversed that decision, and come to an interesting agreement with Kaman. 

NZ has now purchased these aircraft from Kaman.

Original article and further info from Defence Industry Daily

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