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Australia to cancel Kaman Seasprite helicopter programme

Australia's recently elected Rudd government is to cancel the long-troubled Kaman SH-2G(A) Super Seasprite naval helicopter programme.

"After careful consideration of all the issues involved, the government has decided that it intends to cancel the project," defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon says in a statement issued on 5 March.

"Discussions will be commenced immediately with the contrator in relation to the legal and financial arrangements to facilitate [the cancellation]," he says.

© Royal Australian Navy

In the interim, the Royal Australian Navy will focus on improving the availability of its Sikorsky S-70B Seahawks while the government investigates their replacement in its defence White Paper deliberations.

Kaman says it has been notified by the Australian goverment that it wants to negotiate to end the Seasprite programe and the company expects "to arrive at a mutually agreeable conclusion to the Seasprite programme".

Australia ordered 11 Super Seasprites – upgraded ex-US Navy SH-2Fs – in 1997, with deliveries planned to begin in 2001. But ongoing problems with the helicopter’s avionics have delayed full functionality to 2010-11.

The previous government reviewed the Seasprite programme in 2007, but opted to continue amid concerns over possible legal action by Kaman, lack of a suitable replacement and sunk costs of A$1 billion ($920 million).


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