Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR Feb 2017 Contents 48 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter FEB 2017
Flight Control System (AFCS) which caused so
much trouble in Australia. This was because the
Australian avionics were new developments and
replaced the US Navy’s tried and tested Automatic
Stabilisation System, which had flown 1.1 million
hours in US Navy service without encountering
significant problems. All other technical issues were
resolved by Kaman who continued to further develop
the aircraft after Australia cancelled the contract.
The NZDF accepted their first SH-2G(I) from
Kaman in December 2014 and deliveries of the ten
aircraft ordered started in 2015. The plan is that eight
will be maintained in operational condition and two
will be kept for spares and as attrition airframes. An
intensive training period for aircrew and maintainers
resulted in early NZ flights taking place by mid-2015.
The earlier SH-2G(NZ) models have been
purchased by the Peruvian Navy and after a period
of refurbishment at General Dynamics Mission
Systems-Canada they will commence naval service
in Peru from 2017 onwards.
AUSTRALIAN SEASPRITE PROJECT
What went wrong with the SEA 1411 Seasprite
project which resulted in its ultimate cancellation?
It is generally agreed that four factors were
involved, each of which contributed significantly to
the project’s problems. Firstly the economies of scale
arising through a joint purchase and development
program with Malaysia connected with an idea
to jointly procure Offshore Patrol Vessels in the
early 1990s did not eventuate. Secondly it was
planned to operate the same helicopter from ANZAC
frigates and RAN OPVs, despite different mission
requirements. Thirdly the RAN wanted the same
missile as the USN Seahawks, but couldn’t manage
to fit more than one, resulting in asymmetric flying
conditions. Finally, and probably most importantly, the
RAN wanted a flight crew of two not three, meaning
whole new avionic systems had to be developed.
Looking at each of these in turn reveals a catalogue
of errors by the Department of Defence. Hopefully
the lessons learned have been put to good use
in avoiding such problems with subsequent large
projects for all three Services.
The SEA 1411 Seasprite project had its origins
in a Joint Offshore Patrol Combatant program with
Malaysia which wanted to have 5-6 tonne class
helicopters for its planned 27 OPVs. That plan came
apart rapidly after Australia had taken delivery of its
first Seasprites, when Malaysia contracted separately
with Blohm+Voss for a far fewer number of its OPVs.
The RAN were already using the 10-tonne S-70B2
Seahawk which equipped the RAN’s six Adelaide-
class frigates. It just didn’t make sense to go back
to a lighter helicopter like the Seasprite for the ten
The US Navy was using the Kongsberg Penguin
Mark 2 ‘ship killer’ standoff missile. Weighing 385kg,
3 metres long and including the warhead of 125kg,
Defence only managed to trial their Seasprite with one
aboard. This created serious flight control problems,
sufficient to make the RAN very ner vous and unhappy
with the project. In contrast, NZ has had no problems
flying their SH-2G(I) with two Penguin missiles
loaded, probably a tribute to Kaman’s modifications
For whatever reason, the RAN also wanted the
digital glass cockpit redeveloped, so that only two
aircrew would be required, instead of the usual three.
The new all-digital ITAS and AFCS had major software
development and certification problems which finally
became the straw that broke the project’s back.
Anyone interested in reading more details of the
Australian experience should Google ANAO Audit
Report No.41 2008–09 The Super Seasprite.
NEW ZEALAND OPPORTUNITY
The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) currently has
five vessels – two frigates, an amphibious support
ship, and two offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) - which
could and should embark a ship’s helicopter. In the
early 2020s two more will added – a supply ship and
a third OPV.
Typically at any one time only two or three of these
ships are at sea and needing an embarked helicopter.
Although they can carry a naval helicopter, the OPVs
do not usually patrol with one on board. In addition
In contrast, NZ has had no problems flying their SH-2G(I) with
two Penguin missiles loaded, probably a tribute to Kaman’s
modifications and upgrades.
Super Seasprite from HM NZS Te Kaha hovers near HMAS Warramunga
Credit: CoA / Bill Louys
30/01/2017 6:43 PM
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