Kaman Aerospace has started production flight testing for the first of 10 SH-2G(l) Super Seasprite helicopters from its Bloomfield, Conn. facility. The fleet of helicopters, destined for New Zealand, is due for delivery in mid-2015.
New Zealand ordered 10 Super Seasprites, plus spares, a full mission simulator and logistics support in a $120 million deal in May 2013. The helicopters, upgraded former U.S. Navy SH-2Fs, were originally ordered by Australia but the Australian Government cancelled its troubled Super Seasprite program in early 2008 after it fell seven years behind schedule, was more than 40 percent over budget and faced ongoing technical issues.
SH-2G(l) Super Seasprite. Photo courtesy Kaman Aerospace
Australia ordered 11 Super Seasprites in 1997 under a $692 million contract with Kaman, with first deliveries scheduled for 2001. The program suffered numerous problems, however, including technical issues, difficulties defining requirements and changed airworthiness arrangements. Problems with the helicopter’s integrated tactical avionics system resulted in Australia provisionally accepting nine Super Seasprites in an interim configuration from 2003, but in March 2006 the fleet was grounded due to problems with the automatic flight control system. The program was subsequently cancelled and the helicopters were returned to Kaman for resale.
The Super Seasprites will replace New Zealand's aging Seasprites. The Super Seasprites feature modernized flight control systems, radar, new sensors and sensor communication system and the Penguin anti-ship missile. The helicopters, which will operate from two ANZAC class frigates, will support missions including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, surveillance, troop transport, search and rescue and vertical replenishment.
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