Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR_June2012_HighRes.pdf Contents NEW ZEALAND
glass cockpit that could reduce the aircrew
from three to two. Thirdly the ship economics
were helped by a scheme in the early 1990s
for Australia to have a joint Offshore Patrol
Combatant (OPC) program with Malaysia.
Finally, it was planned to operate the same
helicopter on both ANZAC frigates and OPCs.
The Kongsberg Penguin Mark 2 missiles were
acquired and just one per aircraft was fitted
for trials. This affected the stability of the
helicopter with the single 385 kg missile loaded
on one side. The plan was to go to two missiles
per aircraft but this was not achieved.
The Integrated Tactical Avionics System (ITAS)
to support a two man, instead of three man,
aircrew and the new all-digital Automatic Flight
Control System (AFCS) had major problems in
software development and certification. The
AFCS, with a lack of resilience through having
no redundant systems, had an un-nerving
habit of very occasional ‘hard-overs’ where the
AFCS would suddenly drive the controls in
an un-planned direction, necessitating pilot
‘hands-on’ to correct the flight attitude. With
only a two person aircrew, the pilot could be
distracted dealing with other sensor inputs
while the AFCS was flying the helicopter.
Imagine that pilot suddenly sensing a ‘hard
over’ while hovering or flying about 50 metres
above the sea. His reaction time would give him
little chance of recovering before the helicopter
hit the water. This is not a problem with NZ
Super Seasprites because they don’t have the
same avionics and they are always flown with a
3 man crew, with the pilot concentrating solely
on flying the aircraft.
The OPC agreement with Malaysia didn’t
get off the ground, leaving Australia with an
‘orphan’ project. Finally the ANZAC frigates
were deemed to require a more capable
helicopter than the OPCs.
Anyone interested in reading more details
of the Australian experience should Google
ANAO Audit Report No.41 2008–09 The Super
THE NZ SEASPRITE FLEET
The RNZN was also attracted to the Super
Seasprite, especially as the SH-2G model had
largely the same sensor fit as the US Navy’s
The RNZN ordered four aircraft in 1999, then
exercised its option to acquire a fifth, at an
under-budget cost of $NZ 326 million. SH-2Fs
were supplied in the interim as the SH-2G(NZ)
aircraft did not start to enter RNZN service
until 2001, with deliveries completed in 2003.
New Zealand’s helicopters are equipped with
the baseline SH-2G APS-143 radar and forward-
looking infra red (FLIR) AN/AAQ-22 thermal
imager for surveillance, with LR-100 ESM for
passive surveillance and self-protection, and
AGM-65 maverick missiles for anti-surface
These aircraft were fitted with a variant of the
baseline SH-2G avionics fit, but not with the
ITAS and AFCS which caused so much trouble
The RNZAF also has six SH-2F aircraft for
maintenance training at their Ground Training
Wing, Woodbourne Air Base.
MAINTENANCE ISSUES REDUCE
A 2011 report by the NZ Ministry of Defence’s
evaluation division wrote that because of
compounding problems and the need to keep
the helicopters flying, the military is constantly
deferring “operational level maintenance”.
The report said while each individual deferral
might be valid on its own, they were creating a
“bow-wave of deferred maintenance”.
“A significant number of deferrals related to
the repair of corrosion or vibration damage
discovered during checks,” the report said.
While cumulative deferral might be considered
safe, the report said it was reasonable to assume
the “damage will worsen the longer it is left”.
The report concluded that regular operation
of the Seasprite in a corrosive, salt-laden
environment exacerbates maintenance issues.
Vibration damage worsens with flying hours
rather than physical age.
These issues would be ameliorated by a larger
fleet, with flying hours spread across all aircraft.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The NZ Super Seasprites cost $NZ 65 million
each when new in 2001-2003, with the
expectation they would remain in service for
25 years or 10,000 flying hours, whichever
Assuming they will be 70% depreciated by the
time any modified and updated ex-Australian
Super Seasprites are purchased, they would
have a residual value of around $NZ 20 million
each, at most. But they would not obtain this
price if they were resold. This sets an upper
limit on Kaman’s maximum asking price for the
next 11 Super Seasprites.
If NZ were offered seven updated helicopters
at this price by Kaman, and chose four more
unmodified versions for spares at $NZ 2.5
million each, the total purchase contract price
could be $NZ 150 million ($A 120 million).
Despite what they may say, Kaman is basically
stuck with these helicopters, so whatever
they can get for them is a bonus, given that
they received progress payments, then a large
contract termination payment, from Australia.
There will be a keen price negotiation if the
project gets to this stage.
And it could also provide a pleasant surprise
for Australia, since the contract termination
agreement provided for any profits from
resale of the helicopters to be shared between
the Australian Government and Kaman
If a satisfactory position can be reached, then
NZ will have secured an appropriately sized
fleet of maritime combat helicopters which
should last, by rotating embarked units, until at
least 2030. It will also have mainly resolved the
issue of long lead times and other difficulties in
obtaining spares from Kaman.
A Kaman team will be visiting NZ as part
of the negotiation process later this month.
A combined NZMOD / NZDF team will visit
Kaman in Connecticut in June. Discussion will
cover a wide range of topics including through
life support arrangements and software
Defence Minister Coleman said “This isn’t a
done deal, far from it. Officials need to be able
to demonstrate that this is the right capability
for New Zealand. There must be no question
marks left around any performance issues.
These are significant hurdles.”
“But it would be foolish of the New Zealand
Government not to look seriously at an option
that provides a technology our Air Force is
already familiar with; from a country we are
friends with, and at a price that may, because of
the unusual circumstances, prove significantly
more competitive than other options.”
Clearly there are still many issues to be
investigated in depth and resolved before the
New Zealand Government is in a position to
make a firm commitment, but prospects look
A Kaman team will be visiting NZ as part of the negotiation
process later this month.
Asia Pacific Defence Reporter | 35
APDR June 2012.indd 35
7/06/12 5:52 PM
Links Archive APDR_May2012 APDR_July.August2012.HighRes.pdf Navigation Previous Page Next Page