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n the latter half of this decade the Royal
New Zealand Navy (RNZN) will have
seven vessels which could and should
embark a ship’s helicopter. But the RNZN
only has five SH-2G(NZ) Seasprite naval
combat helicopters available to it. This makes
it very difficult to embark them on more than
two ships at any one time because of heavy
The usual multiplier of helicopter fleet size
to ship numbers is just under three to one. In
other words, to have the ability to embark seven
helicopters simultaneously, the RNZN would
ideally require twenty helicopters.
Typically only three or four of the RNZN ships
would be deployed to sea at any one time, so
the requirement is more like twelve helicopters.
Where to get another seven? The US company
Kaman has not built any new Super Seasprites
for over ten years - since the ones they built for
What about the eleven SH-2G(A) helicopters
which had an ill-fated history in Australia before
the contract was paid out and terminated in
2008? They were refurbished 1960s and 1980s
models with a new upper fuselage section to
bring them to as-new condition with a 10,000
hour service life certified by the US Navy. The
whole fleet only flew about 1600 hours in RAN
service. With some modifications to reach
SH-2G(NZ) specifications, could they be sold
by Kaman, who now have the right to sell them,
to NZ Defence?
New Zealand is currently investigating that
possibility. Dr Jonathan Coleman, Minister
of Defence, said of the prospect of acquiring
ex-Australian Super Seasprites “They’ve
been modified with upgraded technology.
The airworthiness issues identified by the
Australians have been corrected and there are
plenty of escape clauses before the deal is
RNZN FLEET 2016 ONWARDS
In the latter half of this decade the RNZN fleet
which can operate helicopters will consist of
two ANZAC frigates, one amphibious support
ship, one supply ship with amphibious support
capability, one littoral warfare ship, and two
offshore patrol vessels.
The RNZAF’s NH-90s will only be able to
operate off the amphibious support ship
HMNZS CANTERBURY (4) and possibly the
HMNZS ENDEAVOUR replacement supply ship
(1 or 2). All seven ships will be able to operate
the SH-2G(NZ) and AW 109 LUH helicopters.
To provide planned capability, all of these
ships should have a Seasprite helicopter
embarked whenever they are deployed.
The current NZ Defence Capability Plan
has programmed upgrading or replacing
the existing Super Seasprites around 2015. If
the ex-Australian SH-2G(A) helicopters were
brought into the equation, an upgrade to a
common standard is the obvious answer.
WHAT WENT WRONG WITH THE SEA
1411 SEASPRITE CONTRACT?
A combination of factors was responsible for
the ultimate cancellation of the Australian
Seasprite contract in 2008. Although the
SH-2G(A) Super Seasprites did fly for a short
time in between groundings, the fleet only ever
reached the stage of providing very limited
aircrew and ground crew training with no
tactical operational tests at all.
Four factors are thought to be responsible.
Firstly the RAN wanted a ‘ship killer’ standoff
missile and chose the Kongsberg Penguin Mark
2, also used on USN S-70 Seahawks. Secondly,
the RAN wanted a redesigned and redeveloped
Australian Super Seasprites
to fly again?
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7/06/12 5:52 PM
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