SH-2G Seasprite (photo : Arkadiusz Smolkowski)
(IMP) -- Defence Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman says the government has approved the purchase of an upgraded and expanded Seasprite helicopter fleet for the New Zealand Defence Force.
A total of eight Seasprites (plus two spare airframes) will be purchased from the United States company Kaman Aerospace in a $242 million dollar deal, which includes a training simulator, missiles, and additional components.
“The Defence Force currently has five Seasprites which have been in service since the late1990s and are due for replacement,” said Dr Coleman.
“This package from Kaman Aerospace will provide the Navy with an upgraded variant, the Seasprite SH-2G(I), and increase the fleet from five to eight helicopters. It will allow helicopters to be embarked on the two ANZAC-class frigates (TE MANA and TE KAHA) as well as the offshore patrol vessels and the multi-role ship HMNZS CANTERBURY,” he said.
“These helicopters come with modernised sensor, weapons and flight control systems and will be a major boost to our maritime surveillance and search capability. The helicopters will also ensure that our naval fleet is able to operate at its full potential,” said Dr Coleman.
The replacement helicopters were originally built for the Australian Defence Force. In 2009 the Australian government elected to cancel the contract and not to introduce them into service after questions about their suitability to meet Australia’s requirements.
“The New Zealand Defence Force and Ministry of Defence officials are acutely aware that the Australian government decided not to fully introduce these aircraft into service after concerns about a range of technical issues,” said Dr Coleman.
“As a consequence the New Zealand Ministry of Defence has invested considerable resources into examining all aspects of this project over the last two years. This included commissioning an independent study by Marinvent Corporation of Canada.”
“Ministry of Defence officials have advised the government this aircraft will prove a very capable purchase, meet all of the New Zealand Defence Force’s requirements, and can be introduced into service.”
“Based on this advice and after looking at other replacement options the government approved this project. The replacement Seasprites will have a multiplier effect on the capability of the Navy and what’s more the price is very good with alternative helicopter replacements costing three times the amount,” said Dr Coleman.