GKN Westland and Kaman are both offering to supply the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) with interim replacements for its Westland Wasps, until new-build or reconditioned naval helicopters can be delivered.

The RNZN had hoped to introduce a replacement for its fleet of elderly Wasps by the middle of the year, to coincide with the entry into service of the first ANZAC-class frigate, HMNZS Te Kaha. The navy is being forced to consider alternative options because a final Government decision on type selection has still to be made.

Further extending the Wasp's operational life has been made difficult by a shortage of replacement rotor blades. The RNZN has also made it clear that there is no point in equipping its two new ANZAC frigates to operate the Wasps until a new helicopter can be delivered.

It is understood that the Royal Navy is offering to loan to New Zealand an interim batch of Westland Lynx for its ANZAC and two Leander-class frigates. It forms part of a strengthened Westland and UK Government push to secure a deal for up to six LHTEC T800-powered Super Lynx.

The move comes in the wake of the Royal Australian Navy's (RAN) recent selection of the competing Kaman SH-2G(A) Super Seasprite as the preferred choice of naval helicopter for its ANZAC frigates. Kaman has made a similar bridging offer to the RNZN to supply surplus US Navy SH-2Fs.

Westland and Kaman view the RNZN and RAN decisions as critical to their future strategies of selling new naval helicopters to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, all of which have pending requirements.

Australia, in the meantime, is expected to combine the selection of sensors for the SH-2G(A) with the RAN's planned project Sea 1405 avionics upgrade of its 16 Sikorsky S-70B2 Seahawk naval helicopters. The programme involves fitting a forward-looking infra-red (FLIR) imager and electronic-support measures (ESM).

Possible FLIR systems for the Super Seasprite include the Hughes AAQ-16 and FSI AAQ-22: the choice of ESM systems is between the Lockheed Martin ALR-504 and the Litton LR-100. The RAN is also to decide on a radar, with the Elta 2022 and Telephonics APS-143 in contention.

Source: Flight International