Seasprite Helicopter Project Approved
(Source: New Zealand Ministry of Defence; issued April 19, 2013)
The New Zealand cabinet has approved the $120M purchase of 10 Kaman Seasprite naval helicopters which were previously bought and rejected by Australia. (AUS DoD photo)
Defence Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman says the government has approved the purchase of an upgraded and expanded Seasprite helicopter fleet for the New Zealand Defence Force.

A total of eight Seasprites (plus two spare airframes) will be purchased from the United States company Kaman Aerospace in a NZ$242 million dollar deal, which includes a training simulator, missiles, and additional components.

“The Defence Force currently has five Seasprites which have been in service since the late1990s and are due for replacement,” said Dr Coleman.

“This package from Kaman Aerospace will provide the Navy with an upgraded variant, the Seasprite SH-2G(I), and increase the fleet from five to eight helicopters. It will allow helicopters to be embarked on the two ANZAC-class frigates (Te Mana and Te Kaha) as well as the offshore patrol vessels and the multi-role ship 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. The helicopters will also ensure that our naval fleet is able to operate at its full potential,” said Dr Coleman.

The replacement helicopters were originally built for the Australian Defence Force. In 2009 the Australian government elected to cancel the contract and not to introduce them into service after questions about their suitability to meet 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,” said Dr Coleman.

“As a consequence the New Zealand 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 this advice and after looking at other replacement options the government approved this 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,” said Dr Coleman.

Questions & Answers

Why do we need new helicopters?
•The current Seasprite fleet is nearly 15 years old and some of the systems are failing. Spare parts are becoming scarce. Manufacturers no longer support some of the systems, and newer versions have improved capabilities.
•The current fleet of five helicopters is too small. Only two aircraft are regularly available for use on the Navy’s ships (one is used for training and two are in maintenance).
•Five of the Navy’s ships can operate a helicopter. This is up from three when the current Seasprites were acquired. To get full value from our investment in the frigates and other naval vessels, we need a larger fleet of helicopters with upgraded components and better communications capability.

What does the Kaman package include?
•The Kaman package consists of ten Super Seasprite helicopters (two will be used as spares), a full motion flight simulator, training aids, spares inventory and publications.

How do the new aircraft differ from the current fleet?
•The new aircraft have updated flight control systems and modern radar and sensors. They also have a modern communications system that allows sensor data to be shared between the helicopter and ship.
•The new sensors provide a much greater range and ability for surveillance and search and rescue.

Has the NZDF tested the aircraft?
•Defence Force personnel have conducted several evaluation flights in one of these helicopters. The pilot and crew members were impressed by the step-up in capabilities these new aircraft will bring to the Defence Force.
•Separately, Marinvent Corporation, the Canadian airworthiness expert contracted by Defence to examine the aircraft, were involved in flight trials as part of their own evaluation process.

What missile does the new Seasprite carry?
•Our current fleet of Seasprites carries a Maverick missile, which is a general-purpose air-to-surface missile, designed for use against ground targets and shipping. The new aircraft will carry the Penguin missile, which is an anti-ship missile.
•The Penguin is a better missile. It is bigger, faster, has a warhead three times the size of the Maverick, has twice the range, and once launched the aircraft is free to turn-away. The Penguin can also perform random weaving manoeuvres and strike the target close to the waterline, making it more difficult to counter.

Are these new aircraft?
•Unlike the current New Zealand Seasprite fleet which were new at the time of purchase, Australia chose to refurbish former US Navy airframes.
•The practice of refurbishing airframes is common. It involves a complete re-build of the body to a point where it is regarded as new and the fitting of new avionics, engines, wiring, software, fittings, and weapons and sensor systems. The aircraft have a service life out to 2030.
•Refurbished aircraft are common to all defence forces, and the Seasprite airframes will be no different in age to our upgraded C-130 Hercules and P3K2 Orions, except the entire Seasprite fleet only has a total of 1200 flying hours.

Why would these helicopters be suitable when Australia cancelled its contract?
•At the time Australia bought 11 Seasprites for $1 billion but decided to add bespoke enhancements, including a sophisticated computer controlled flight operating system. After a series of delays, project management issues, and cost over-runs the Australian government cancelled the project.
•A key issue was the Australian Defence Force specified an aircraft that could be flown by a two-person crew and have a computer flight system that could operate the aircraft with “no hands” on the controls.
•The NZDF has a different requirement. It will operate the aircraft with a three-person crew, as is current practice with its standard operating procedure for pilots to retain a hold on the controls at all times. The “no-hands” requirement is not being adopted.
•All other technical issues have been resolved by Kaman who continued to further develop the aircraft after Australia cancelled the contract.

When will the aircraft arrive?
•The aircraft are currently in storage in Connecticut, USA. They will need to be returned to flying condition, and undergo some minor modifications to suit New Zealand’s requirements. The NZDF will undertake the usual airworthiness and certification process in preparation for operational flying.
•The first three aircraft are due in New Zealand in late 2014. The fleet should all be in service during 2016.

What is a breakdown in the purchase price?
The purchase price includes $US120 million (about $NZ147 million) for the 8 aircraft going into service and two further airframes. The additional project costs are for missiles, the flight simulator, ship decklock modification, additional components, testing and introduction into service activities. (ends)



Kaman Announces Authorization From New Zealand For The Purchase Of Ten SH-2G(I) Super Seasprite Aircraft
(Source: Kaman Corp.; issued April 18, 2013)
WELLINGTON, New Zealand --- Kaman Corp. today announced that the New Zealand Cabinet has authorized the New Zealand Ministry of Defence (MoD) to enter into an approximately $120 million contract with Kaman Aerospace Corporation (Kaman) for the purchase of ten SH-2G(I) Super Seasprite aircraft, spare parts, a full mission flight simulator, and related logistics support.

The MoD and Kaman expect to execute a contract in the next few weeks. Kaman anticipates the contract will call for the aircraft to be delivered over an approximately three year period with revenue recognition beginning in 2013.

Neal J. Keating, Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer said, “We are very pleased to have reached this milestone with the Government of New Zealand. Kaman has had a longstanding relationship with the New Zealand Defence Force based on the success they have experienced flying the Kaman Super Seasprite since 2001. This success led to their interest in our SH-2G(I), the latest variant of the aircraft and one of the most technologically advanced helicopters in the world today. We expect to transition the aircraft into their fleet over the next three years and to continue to support them for many years to come. This contract represents an important step forward for Kaman and we welcome the opportunity to continue supporting the operational needs of the New Zealand Defence Force.”

The SH-2G(I) Super Seasprite is an advanced integrated maritime weapon system. The SH-2G Super Seasprite is a proven day/night/all-weather multi-mission helicopter. Originally designed to meet the exacting requirements of the U.S. Navy, the SH-2G Super Seasprite has the highest power-to-weight ratio of any maritime helicopter, assuring a safe return-to-ship capability even in single-engine flight conditions. Its robust design, outstanding stability, and excellent reliability have been proven through more than 1.5 million flight hours.

The SH-2G is a fully integrated, multi-mission maritime weapon system designed to fulfill anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW), over the horizon targeting, surveillance, troop transport, vertical replenishment, search and rescue, and utility missions. It is the largest, most powerful small ship helicopter in use today and is recognized for its mission effectiveness, support, and unmatched performance.

In addition to the Royal New Zealand Navy, the SH-2G Super Seasprite is operated by the Egyptian Air Force and the Polish Navy.


Kaman Corporation, founded in 1945 by aviation pioneer Charles H. Kaman, and headquartered in Bloomfield, Connecticut conducts business in the aerospace and industrial distribution markets.

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