The New Zealand Defense Force's (NZDF) new Seasprite SH-2G(I) saw success in its inaugural operational mission to the Kermadec Islands, according to a Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) news release.
Operating from the HMNZS Otago, an offshore patrol vessel, the helicopter was able to complete the mission in about half the time it would take with a ship alone.
The Seasprite's first stop was at Macauley Island where it dropped off four Department of Conservation (DoC) staff and two rat-and-pest-hunting dogs. Next, it sailed on the HMNZS Otgao to Raoul Island. Here, it resupplied the DoC outpost with seven tons of food, general equipment and a light utility vehicle in underslung loads. The rotorcraft also flew 10 DoC staff from the ship to the island.
According to news reports, the RNZN certified the HMNZS Otago to embark on the mission in early September. The qualification procedures included winching operations for goods and personnel, inflight refueling exercises, and simulations of operational emergencies.
Because of the success of the Seasprite and HMNZS Otago, the RNZN has access remote parts of the Kermadecs, which were previously much more difficult to reach. This will widen the scope of DoC and GNS Science (a New Zealand Crown Research institute) work the NZDF can support.
The Seasprite is also able to carry Penguin Mk2 Mod 7 anti-shp missiles and lightweight torpedoes. Reports say that seven additional Seasprites will be produced into service this year. This stems from a 2013 contract to replace the NZDF's fleet of five older Super Seasprites, which had been in service since 2001.
Photo courtesy of the Royal New Zealand Air Force