New Zealand seeks industry input for maritime helicopters, drones

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – The New Zealand Army launched an RFI on April 24 for naval helicopters and aerial drones to replace the eight Kaman SH-2G(I) Seasprites operated by the Royal New Zealand Navy.

The Defense Force’s 2019 annual report says the country will replace its maritime helicopter fleet by 2027 to avoid “a capability shortfall resulting from the end of life of the Seasprite fleet”.

In November 2021, an “opportunity workshop” for the Maritime Helicopter Replacement Project mentioned a planned retirement of the SH-2G(I) Seasprite helicopter in 2028.

The recently published RFI mentions deliveries to the Navy from mid-2027.

According to the Army’s 2019 Defense Capabilities Plan, the replacement program would cost more than NZ$1 billion (US$616 million).

The call for tenders closes June 21, 2023 and does not provide additional information on unmanned aerial systems wanted by the military.

The Seasprite is capable of operating from the Navy’s two frigates, the sea transport vessel Canterbury, the tanker Aotearoa and the two offshore patrol vessels. The helicopter’s weapons include Penguin anti-ship missiles and MK 46 torpedoes.

The 53-foot-long plane has a maximum takeoff weight of 14,200 pounds. Potential replacement options are larger and heavier.

The Navy operated Westland Wasp helicopters for more than 30 years until that fleet was replaced by four SH-2F Seasprites in 1997. Five SH-2G Seasprites entered service in 2001, and SH-2G(I) versions have flown with the force since 2015. .

Nick Lee-Frampton is the New Zealand correspondent for Defense News.

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