New Zealand in negotiations for new Seasprite helicopters

Singapore
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New Zealand is in discussions with US helicopter maker Kaman for 11 SH-2G (I) Super Seasprite helicopters, which would likely replace the navy's SH-2Gs.

Kaman has received approval from the US Department of State for the discussions, it said in a statement. The package would include a full motion flight simulator, spares and other services related to the deal.

"New Zealand officials have been working over the past year to determine the most effective way of meeting their future maritime helicopter requirements and the cabinet has recently directed defence officials to engage in further discussions with Kaman," said Kaman.

It added that the discussions are confidential and that the New Zealand government has yet to make a decision.

The company added that the SH-2G (I) type would offer lower operating costs.

In August 2011, a New Zealand defence ministry report said that the nation's five SH-2G helicopters were missing flight hour targets owing to maintenance issues. During the 2009/10 fiscal year the type achieved 882 flying hours compared with 1,240h to 1,370h targeted.

"That target was itself reassessed during the year to 904h, in reflection of the difficulty being experienced in keeping enough helicopters available," the report said.

©New Zealand Defence Force

"Corrosion and vibration damage are the main maintenance issues on the Seasprite. Regular operation of the Seasprite in a corrosive, salt-laden environment exacerbates maintenance issues."

The Royal New Zealand Navy aims to have three SH-2Gs deployed on its Anzac-class frigates at any one time. This requires four operational aircraft, with the fourth required for training and certification.

In May, the navy conducted flight trails of the SH-2G from one of its offshore patrol vessels, which are considerably smaller than the Anzac frigates.

The SH-2G entered service in New Zealand in 2001. The Egyptian air force and Polish navy are the only other operators of the type, with Flightglobal's HeliCAS database recording them as having active fleets of 10 and three, respectively.