New Zealand considers axing Super Seasprite helicopter fleet

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is reportedly considering a move to axe its eight-strong fleet of SH-2G(I) Super Seasprite multi-role maritime helicopters as part of a 6.5% cut in defence spending – equivalent to NZ$150m (US$91.23m) – that has been requested by the New Zealand government.

While no formal decision has been made on how the NZDF will meet this goal or on the short-term future of the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s (RNZAF's) ageing SH-2G(I) fleet, the retirement of the air arm’s eight remaining Super Seasprites is definitely being considered as an option by the NZDF hierarchy. In a statement issued to reporters on February 15, RNZAF Air Marshal Kevin Short – New Zealand’s current Chief of Defence Force – noted that the NZDF would have to divest an entire capability to meet Wellington’s cost reduction goals.

The RNZAF has operated eight SH-2G(I) Super Seasprite multi-role maritime helicopters - all of which were previously operated by the Royal Australian Navy - since March 2015, but the fleet's short-term future is now being considered.
The RNZAF has operated eight SH-2G(I) Super Seasprite multi-role maritime helicopters - all of which were previously operated by the Royal Australian Navy - since March 2015, but the fleet's short-term future is now being considered. NZDF

Commenting on the future of the Seasprites in relation to this spending cut request, Short said that they are “old helicopters” that are “costing us a lot of money”, adding that “if we have to push towards that [spending reduction goal], we would put those aircraft on the ground and get them off the books”. While he did confirm that the SH-2G(I) fleet’s retirement is now being considered, he also stressed that the loss of the type would negatively affect the capabilities available to Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) vessels. At present, six of the RNZN’s nine ships are operational – with three vessels set to be out of action for at least three more years – but the NZDF does not want to scale back its naval force in these cuts.

Wellington announced it would acquire ten ex-Royal Australian Navy SH-2G(A) Super Seasprites from the Kaman Corporation (the type’s original equipment manufacturer) on April 19, 2013. While these airframes were initially operated by Australia, they were subsequently returned to Kaman in 2008 because of technical issues. Of the ten helicopters delivered – following their upgrade to SH-2G(I) standard – eight entered RNZAF service in March 2015, with the type being used for maritime patrol, surveillance and search-and-rescue (SAR) missions. The remaining two airframes were used as a source of spare/repair parts.