Future force‎ > ‎NZ Arsenal‎ > ‎

Maritime Helicopters

What do we replace the Seasprites with?

The Kaman Seasprites are not bad helicopters but they are a technological orphan. New Zealand is the only Navy still flying them.

 Kaman S-2F Seasprite

Maximum speed: 143 knots (165 mph, 265 km/h)
Cruise speed: 130 knots (150 mph, 241 km/h)
Range: 366 nmi (422 mi, 679 km)
Service ceiling: 22,500 ft (6,860 m)
Rate of climb: ft/min (m/s)
Missiles: the AGM-65 Maverick (often used in the anti-ship role) and dedicated anti-ship missiles.
Torpedoes: 2× Mk 46 or Mk 50 ASW torpedoes

There are three criterion for replacement selection. 1) Choose whatever the Australians have chosen for no real reason (given the poor history of Australian naval helicopters) 2) Choose based on performance or 3) Choose based on the systems we already have as these can be more readily supported. This yields the following options.

 Helicopter Notes
Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk
The Australians have signed up to buy 24 naval ASW helicopters for A$3 bn. Typically ASW helicopters cost a lot because the sensors and processors they have on-board are to find and kill submarines.
The Australians are replacing SH-70s (which had rust problems) and SH-2G "Super Seasprites" which cost them another billion. All in all not a glorious record.
The American chopper is based on the original UH-60 Blackhawk design but has been tweaked a lot. The main complaints will be a small cabin which is not big enough to stand in. The helicopter can accept add-ons which give it heaps of range and weaponry options.
Cost A$125m each, but the Thai's bought the MH-60S for US$42m.
 Agusta Westland AW101
The AW101 is a very large helicopter with a cabin twice the size of the MH-60. It's the world's best long range maritime helicopter which becomes obvious when you note that only countries with huge EEZs fly it: Britain, Canada, Portugal, Denmark, and Japan. The attraction of this chopper is safety. Most helicopters have two engines (turbines) but the AW101 has three for safety. It has a huge range and is unusually quiet for its size. The Indian government was to buy 12 VIP transport aircraft for €560m in a deal so riddled with graft it was cancelled. This suggests a unit cost of US$50 without sensors and weapons.
The obvious reason for selecting the NH90 NFH is that we already have eight TTH models. Unfortunately the NH90 generally has had a lot of negative press especially in the naval version. There is more than a whiff of European cronyism and design by committee about the chopper with European militaries all lining up to bag the machine for various reasons. One of the design issues the Swedes demanded changes on, was the height of the cabin so that the crew could stand without stooping. The unit cost of the machine should be in line with the others, i.e about US$40~50m.
The A109 was chosen by the RNZAF as a training helicopter but it is in fact a very capable platform in its own right. As can be seen in the picture the A109 is a much smaller helicopter than the other three. Despite this it has a range and flight performance which is every bit as good as the bigger machines. Military A109s carry weapons while the US Coastguard uses the "Stringray" for drugs interdiction. Although the machine is way too small to stand in it also has the benefit of being light enough to land on smaller vessels. Biggest benefit of all is the price - about US$7 million.

Of these the A109KN appeals on the basis of cost, support and flexibility. Not only are the machines easily transported by sea they can also be easily carried by air (compared to the NH90) as well. Note that the Marine Battalion would need 12 helicopters as opposed to 5 helicopters currently operated by no.6 Squadron.