NZDF helicopter changeover
The last of the SH-2G(NZ) Seasprites has been retired, replaced by eight of these SH-2G(I) models.
The retirement of the New Zealand Defence Force Seasprite SH-2G(NZ) naval helicopters was marked with a small celebration on 14 April as part of a change of command ceremony held at RNZAF Base Auckland. The NZ model helicopters will be replaced by eight of the newer SH-2G(I) model.
The last flight of the NZ model took place a week later when the remaining aircraft returned from assisting the cyclone recovery operation in Fiji. The two Seasprites were flown off HMNZS Canterbury and returned to Whenuapai.
The RNZAF purchased five SH-2G(NZ) aircraft from manufacturer Kaman, and started flying them in August 2001. Since then they have flown over 15,000hr and operated around the world, embarked on RNZN vessels including frigates HMNZS Te Mana and Te Kaha and the multi-role vessel HMNZS Canterbury.
The Seasprites have participated in naval exercises, counter-piracy and counter-narcotics operations in the Gulf of Aden, and cyclone relief efforts around the South Pacific.
The new Chief of Air Force, AVM Tony Davies, acknowledged the work done by the Naval Helicopter Force in conducting the introduction into service of the new helicopter while maintaining operations with a decreasing fleet of SH-2G(NZ) aircraft.
He said the focus had been on temporarily managing up to 13 aircraft with the same resources as was previously available for five. “The Naval Helicopter Force has put a lot of effort into the I model transition and achieved success through this.”
Upgrading the naval helicopter fleet from five to the new eight, plus a simulator, gives the NZDF a significant increase in capability, allowing the navy to embark up to three helicopters from ships concurrently, as opposed to the current two.
The new SH-G(I) model features modernised sensors, weapons and flight control systems, including a modern communications system that allows sensor data to be shared between the helicopter and ship.
- Report and photography by John King.
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