The Seasprite originated in a 1956 USN design competition. Kaman were the winning entrant with their K-20 proposal. In 1957 they were contracted to produce 4 prototypes and 12 production aircraft to be designated HU2K-1. The first of the four 875 shp GE T58-GE-6 powered prototypes was flown on July 2, 1959. Production delivery beginning in December 1962, with the designation changed to UH-2A and named the Seasprite. Like the UH-2B, this was a single engine (1,250 shp GE T58-GE-8B) shipborne SAR helicopter, with a range of other uses (casualty evacuation, gunnery observation, liason, planeguard, reconnaisance, and vertical replenishment). The UH-2A was IFR equipped, while the simplified UH-2B was not - although most were later upgraded to all weather capability. In addition to the 4 prototypes, 88 UH-2A and 102 UH-2B aircraft were produced.
Development of the Seasprite continued with the UH-2C. This was a conversion of 40 UH-2A and B airframes to accomodate two 1,250 shp GE T58-GE-8B engines. The extra engine provided better performance and improved safety (particularly over water) as the aircraft was capable of single engine operation. The prototype first flew on March 14, 1966, and 'production' deliveries began in August 1967. The HH-2C was a further convertion of six aircraft to incorporate a new main rotor, a four bladed tail rotor, and self-sealing tanks, along with a chin minigun, waist machine guns, and crew armour protection. These were used in the combat SAR role in Vietnam. The HH-2D was produced by rebuilding 67 UH-2A and B aircraft, and was similar mechanically to the HH-2C but lacked the armour and armament.
The SH-2D was produced to meet the USN 'Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System' (LAMPS) requirement. Intended as an interim aircraft, 2 HH-2D aircraft were modified, to incorporate search radar and electronic support measures (ESM) equipment, plus provision for a magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) system and sonobouys, along with torpedo armament. The first of these flew on March 16, 1971 with a total of 20 aircraft being completed and delivered by March 1972. Further LAMPS development was explored with the YSH-2E. Two HH-2D aircraft were converted, first flying on March 7 and 28, 1972 respectively. The programme did not go into production but resulted in the SH-2F LAMPS Mk.1 aircraft which went into production, with the first deliveries in 1973. Initial aircraft were conversions of earlier models, amounting to 104 helicopters by 1982. New build production began in 1984, and 54 aircraft were delivered by 1989. A number of aircraft were upgraded for service in the Middle East, changes including IR jammers, chaff/flare dispensors, missile warning equipment, and chin mounted FLIR sensors.
The SH-2G is the latest development. The prototype was a converted SH-2F which initially served as a test bed for the two 1,720shp T700-GE-401 turboshafts. Fitting of the electronic improvements, which include a digital databus to coordinate the sensor and data-processing systems, uprated sensors, magic lantern anti-mine system, and dunking sonar was completed in December 1989. The type entered service in 1991, but changing world conditions saw only six new build aircraft and a number of SH-2F conversions. Export options have increased the market for the new Seasprite and Kaman are now producing SH-2Gs for Australia, Egypt, and New Zealand.
The Royal New Zealand Navy presently operates four SH-2F aircraft. Following an evaluation period in the mid-1990's where proposals from Augusta, Bell, Eurocopter, Kaman, Sikorsky, and Westland were considered, the Westland Super Lynx and Kaman SH-2G Seasprite were put forward as the main contenders for the Wasp replacement. Cabinet approval was given on March 10, 1997 for the purchase of four new construction SH-2G(NZ) aircraft with an option for two more. These are intended to equip the RNZN's new 'ANZAC' class frigates. The deal included spares and stores such as maverick missiles. Safe Air Ltd has teamed with Kaman to provide local support (New Zealand and Australia), and some manufacturing of sub-assemblies for the aircraft. This has included engineers being seconded to Kaman for periods up to two years. The contract cost in the order of NZ$275 million and the aircraft are expected to remain in-service until 2030. The acquisition of a fifth aircraft was announced in August 1999. The four SH-2F aircraft were acquired for interim use, and the SH-2G aircraft should begin delivery in March 2001. After that it is expected that the SH-2F aircraft will be reduced to spares. The SH-2F helicopters have allowed personnel to remain current in helicopter operations and have provided familiarisation training for pilots, maintenance personnel, and ship's crews. The aircraft's primary role is to extend the ship's sensor range beyond the horizon; but it can also carry maverick missiles in the anti-ship role, and Mk.46 torpedoes or Mk.11 depth charges in an ASW role. In addition the aircraft are used for SAR operations, medivac, and the 1815kg (4000lb) lift capacity and five passenger capacity are also useful for utility and replenishment work.
The SH-2F aircraft currently in service were reactivated after being in open storage. One aircraft had been used by Kaman as a test bed for the 'magic lantern' laser mine detection system. The others had been in desert storage. The reactivation was carried out by Kaman technicians in conjunction with personnel from the RNZAF 3 Squadron Naval Support Flight. As with the Westland Wasps which the Seasprites replaced, the aircraft are flown by naval pilots, and maintained by air force personnel. Kaman input was decreased as each of the aircraft was overhauled. The first aircraft exited from its eight week programme and was flown for the first in New Zealand on February 24, 1998. The official rollout was at RNZAF Base Hobsonville on February 27. The other three aircraft required longer due to being in desert storage. The Navy Flight have subsequently been relocated to RNZAF Base Whenuapai. Initial crew training was carried out in New Zealand by Kaman test pilot Gary Kochert.
After the initial training period, the aircraft were used for shipborne trials, with the first ship landing (aboard HMNZS Canterbury) occurring on September 18, 1998. This was followed by the development of ships' helicopter operating limits (SHOL) for the Seasprite during October 1998 (with HMNZS Te Kaha). These were developed in conjunction with an Australian company, Aerospace Technical Services. The 'ANZAC' class frigates are equipped to handle helicopters the size of the Seasprite, although modifications were required for the 'Leander' class frigate, HMNZS Canterbury. Subsequently the aircraft have operated trials in all the standard RNZN roles. This has included voyages into the freezing conditions of the Southern Ocean aboard HMNZS Te Kaha, the tropical conditions around Tonga (including the first resupply mission to Raoul Island on March 18, 1999), exercises with Australian forces, and a deployment to East Timor aboard HMNZS Canterbury.
The SH-2F aircraft are:
Thanks to Lieutenant Kevin Mains, and Commander Richard Jackson for assistance in compiling this data.
Last Text Update:- 9 May, 2000
Last Picture Update:- 15 may, 2003
Data is for the SH-2F
Remember to let me know if you have a request for an image of a particular part of the aircraft!
© 2000-2003 Phillip Treweek, all rights reserved