The Taiwan navy is reviving its long-standing interest in the Kaman SH-2G Super Seasprite helicopter, and is once again seeking funding and approval to order up to 12 of the remanufactured aircraft.

It is understood from local defence sources that the Taiwan navy is drawing up an operational requirement for the surplus US Navy helicopters to submit to Taiwan's defence ministry.

An earlier provisional deal in 1993 to purchase the SH-2G collapsed in the wake of an unrelated navy corruption scandal. The re-engined and modernised former SH-2Fs are needed to equip nine FF-1052 Knox-class frigates on lease from the US Navy.

Each of the anti-submarine-warfare (ASW) frigates, six of which are already in Taiwan navy service, is designed and equipped to handle a single Seasprite helicopter. A threat of a possible naval blockade of Taiwan by China has highlighted the need to improve Taiwanese navy ASW and anti-surface-vessel capabilities.

There is also navy interest in an airborne mine-countermeasures system, such as Kaman's Magic Lantern, to be carried by the General Electric T700-powered SH-2G.

Sikorsky has been trying to persuade the navy to standardise its shipboard naval-helicopter fleet around the S-70C(M)-1, known locally as the Thunderhawk.

It argues that, for no more than $1 million a ship, each of the FF1052 frigates' flightdecks could be strengthened to handle the heavier helicopter.

The navy already operates nine Thunderhawks and has ordered a further 11 helicopters from the US manufacturer, including a single attrition replacement.

The additional S-70s are needed to equip the navy's seven locally built FFG-7 Perry-class frigates and six new La Fayette-class frigates now being delivered from France.

Sikorsky's longer-terms hopes for the S-70 are focused on Taiwan's larger requirement for a new utility helicopter to replace the army's Bell UH-1Hs, around 60 of which are still in service.

The US company has already supplied 14 S-70C Black Hawks to the Taiwan air force. Eurocopter is also keen to supply the AS532 Cougar, but is unsure whether the French Government will risk again upsetting China by releasing the helicopter for sale to Taiwan.

The US Department of Defense is making 29 surplus US Navy SH-2F Seasprite helicopters available to Australia for conversion into SH-2G(A) Super Seasprite multi-purpose helicopters.

Australia will pay about $27 million if all 29 mothballed SH-2Fs are transferred. The transaction includes spare and repair parts, support and training equipment and technical and logistics support.

Early this year, the Royal Australian Navy picked the Super Seasprite over an LHTEC T800-powered Westland Lynx for its new ANZAC-class frigates.

Source: Flight International