Andrzej Jeziorski/TAIPEI

Kaman Aerospace is expecting an initial contract from Thailand in the fourth quarter of this year to upgrade two ex-US Navy SH-2F SeaSprites to SH-2G standard, as the first stage of an eight-helicopter programme.

"We know the money's in the budget - we just delivered the final updated version of the proposal, and everything we hear sounds good," says Kaman head of international military marketing Al Ferber.

The Royal Thai Navy has been struggling since 1997 to raise funds for the procurement. Thailand has been severely hit by the Asian economic crisis, which began that year.

Kaman says the US Navy is willing to offer Thailand 10 SH-2Fs at no cost. The Thai navy will then buy upgrades to SH-2G Super SeaSprite standard for eight of these, while the rest will be cannibalised for spares. The first modified helicopters are likely to be delivered by mid-2002.

The upgraded helicopters will have General Electric T700 turboshafts, dipping sonars, ASN-150 tactical navigation suites and Telephonics APS-143 belly-mounted radars. The APS-143 will provide commonality with Sikorsky S-70B2 Seahawk helicopters already in Thai service.

Thailand has been considering arming the helicopters with either Raytheon AGM-65 Maverick or Kongsberg Penguin anti-ship missiles. Sources close to the programme say the Maverick is the favoured option because of its lower price.

Sales possibilities for Kaman exist in Malaysia, which needs as many as 30 helicopters for 27 German-built patrol vessels it is buying. Kaman is also proposing the SH-2G for a 10-12 aircraft Taiwanese shipborne helicopter requirement.

No timescale has been set for a decision on the order, says Ferber. A further requirement is linked to long-standing Taiwanese plans to buy a fleet of new corvettes.

Source: Flight International