The New Zealand Defence Force today marked the retirement of its five Kaman SH-2G(NZ) Seasprites and the operational transition to eight refurbished -2G(I) Super Seasprite versions of that helicopter.
The milestone came in a change-of-command ceremony for the No. 6 Squadron at Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Auckland in Whenuapai, just northwest of Auckland.
“Upgrading the naval helicopter fleet from five to eight plus a simulator gives the New Zealand Defence Force a significant increase in capability,” said the chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Tony Davies, “allowing the Navy to embark up to three helicopters from ships concurrently as opposed to the current two that are available.” The Seasprites are operated by the Royal New Zealand Navy and maintained by the air force.
Davies said the increase from five to eight allows the helicopters, aircrews and mechanics to be embarked on the two ANZAC-class frigates, HMNZS Te Mana and Te Kaha, the offshore patrol vessels HMNZS Otago and Wellington and the multi-role ship HMNZS Canterbury.
The squadron’s five -2G(NZ)s had flown more than 15,000 hr since New Zealand acquired the aircraft in 2001; most recently, they supported Operation Pacific Relief operations following Cyclone Winston’s devastation of Fiji in February. The last NZ flight is slated for April 21 with the return of helicopters deployed to Fiji.
New Zealand ordered 10 Super Seasprites, plus spares, a full-mission CAE 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 that nation canceled its troubled Super Seasprite program in early 2008 after it fell seven years behind schedule, was more than 40% over budget and faced ongoing technical issues. Two of the 10 -2G(I)s will be used as sources of spare parts.
Photo courtesy of Royal New Zealand Air Force