Farnborough Air Show

Aussie Navy still waiting for reworked Seasprites

 - November 27, 2006, 12:59 PM

When the U.S. Navy retired its Kaman SH-2s from service, the manufacturer had an opportunity to refurbish airframes and convert them to SH-2G Super Seasprite standard for resale to approved customers worldwide. Egypt was the first, taking 10 examples, while New Zealand and Australia followed, with Poland the most recent operator of the type.

However, of them all, the Australian Navy specification agreed upon in 1997 was the most complex and has proved to be something of a headache as a result. Indeed, while the five examples of the SH-2G operated by New Zealand have performed well, the Australian fleet of 11 has yet to be accepted into service.

The aircraft are five years late, with consequent problems between customer and supplier. An incident flagged as a safety problem featured an air data computer that indicated it was functioning properly but in fact was giving inaccurate speed information. The helicopter returned to base safely and the problem was resolved by replacing a card. However, the company is confident that all software development problems have been overcome and formal qualification should be achieved within a matter of weeks.

One cause of the headaches has been the digital automatic flight control system (DAFCS) that is unique to Australia, which is also unusual in having an “all glass” cockpit. The New Zealand SH-2Gs have a more traditional cockpit with just a glass EFIS but the helicopters have performed well, accumulating many hours and operating reliably when deployed to the Gulf.

Egyptian Models to be Refurbed

Egypt’s SH-2Gs are scheduled to undergo a major refurbishment with an upgraded DAFCS, Telephonics AN/APS-143 radar, FLIR Systems forward looking infrared turret and a Smiths HUMS. Poland is the latest country to receive the SH-2G for operation from FFG-7 warships supplied by America and it too wants its helicopters to be upgraded.

However, resolution of the dispute with Australia is important if Kaman (Hall 2 Stand B15) is to secure more orders for refurbished SH-2G. So it will need to clear a formal qualification test, which will result in certification of the integrated tactical avionics system software.