SH-2G A Sea Sprite of the RAN (photo : Defense Industry Daily)
In 1997, Australia signed an $A 667 million contract with Kaman to purchase 11 upgraded SH-2G (A) “Super Seasprites,” with modernized avionics. This compact helicopter design was thought to be well suited to operation from the RAN’s ANZAC Class frigates, and even from patrol boats with helicopter decks. The first helicopter was unveiled in 2003, but by 2005 up to 40 deficiencies had been identified including inability to operate in bad weather and low-light conditions, and inability to meet Australian airworthiness certification standards. Placing modern avionics into a 1960s airframe proved challenging indeed; the helicopters were restricted to “passenger and supply transport in good weather” in 2005, then grounded in May 2006.SH-2G A Sea Sprite in flight trials (photo : Defense Industry Daily)
The project is now 6 years behind schedule, costs have risen over 50% to $A 1.1 billion (currently about $900 million) for 11 helicopters, and the program is being used as a case study in the Australian Defence College’s leadership and ethics course. It’s estimated that at least $A 45 million more and 29 months of work would be required to make them serviceable, with full operational status unlikely until at least 2010. Other SH-2 operators include New Zealand (from its ANZAC frigates), Egypt, and Poland.
In 2007, Australia’s Liberal Party government elected to continue the Super Seasprite program – but their successor Labor government has reversed that decision, and come to an interesting agreement with Kaman.
(Defense Industry Daily)