The SH-2G Super Seasprite, manufactured by Kaman Aerospace, was the US Navy’s front-line intermediate-weight helicopter. A total of 16 SH-2G helicopters were operational in two US Navy squadrons, HSL-94 and HSL-84. First flight of the SH-2G was in 1985 and it entered service with the US Navy in 1993. The SH-2G Super Seasprite was retired from service with the US Navy Air Reserve in May 2001.
The Super Seasprite SH-2G can be equipped for anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW), over-the-horizon-targeting airborne mine countermeasures (AMCM), surveillance, search and rescue (SAR) and covert operations.
In November 2014, Kaman signed a contract with General Dynamics Canada to remanufacture and modernise four SH-2G helicopters for the Peruvian Navy. The contractual scope also includes operational support for the fifth SH-2G helicopter.
The SH-2G has a three-man crew: two pilots and a sensor operator (SENSO). However, it can also be flown by a single pilot and SENSO, due to the flexible integrated tactical avionics system (ITAS) designed by Kaman and Northrop Grumman (formerly Litton) Guidance & Controls. ITAS is driven by dual mission data processors and uses two dual 1553B databuses to integrate sensors, weapons, communications and navigation equipment.
The glass cockpit has four-colour multifunction displays and new centre console, which has two smart display units to simplify data entry by the pilot and the SENSO.
The SH-2G can be armed with Raytheon AGM-65 Maverick infrared imaging or TV-guided, Penguin infrared imaging, radar-guided Improved Sea Skua and laser-designated Hellfire missiles.
The SH-2G is cleared for MK-44, MK-46 and MK-50 torpedoes, and is compatible with a wide range of European ASW weapons.
The Royal New Zealand Navy’s SH-2Gs have been fitted with the Fabrique Nationale (FN) MAG-58M 7.62mm machine gun as an urgent operational requirement. First operational deployment with the gun was in May 2008.
Super Seasprite countermeasures
The SH-2G (A) for Australia has Northrop Grumman AN/ALR-93 electronic protection measures, ATK AN/AAR-47 missile warning system, BAE Systems North America (formerly Sanders) AN/ALQ-144 infrared jammers and twin BAE Systems Integrated Defense Solutions (formerly Tracor) AN/ALE-39 flare and chaff dispensers. The SH-2G’s for New Zealand are fitted with Northrop Grumman LR-100 ESM.
The Northrop Grumman LN-66HP multimode radar provides the helicopter with ASW, ASuW and anti-ship surveillance and targeting (ASST) capabilities. Alternative multi-mode radar fits available include Northrop Grumman LN-66 HP Enhanced, BAE Systems Seaspray and Telephonics APS-143 advanced search radar. Chosen by New Zealand, the APS-143 has an optional inverse synthetic aperture (ISAR) mode.
The Raytheon AN/AAQ-16 FLIR (forward-looking infrared) is available with a laser designator. The SH-2Gs for New Zealand are fitted with a FLIR Systems AN/AAQ-22 thermal imager.
The SH-2 Seasprite helicopter relays acoustic data from sonobuoys back to the host ship for processing via AKT-22 datalink. On the SH-2G, an autonomous submarine-hunting capability has been introduced using computing devices, such as the UYS-503 onboard acoustic processor, to analyse returns from its own buoys.
The Northrop Grumman ASN-150 tactical navigation (TACNAV) system displays a refined tactical plot and downlinks the picture to its own ship or other ASW platforms.
For the Egyptian requirement, the SH-2G (E) is equipped with L-3 Communications AN/AQS-18A active dipping sonar and digital hover coupler.
Magic lantern airborne laser mine detection system
The SH-2G Super Seasprite was the first helicopter qualified with the Kaman Magic Lantern airborne laser mine detection system. In 1996, the US Navy took delivery of the Kaman Magic Lantern laser mine detection system, which was fitted on the Super Seasprite for airborne mine countermeasures (AMCM) missions.
The Magic Lantern pod uses a blue-green laser and charge-coupled device (CCD) cameras to sweep the ocean from the surface to below the keel depth of warships. Magic Lantern provides mine classification symbology and video imagery on the existing ASN-1 50 displays.
SH-2G is fitted with General Electric T700-GE-401 engines. The T700-401 is rated 1,412shp. Second-generation composite main rotor blades (CMRB2) have been fitted on the Super Seasprite, which incorporate filament-wound, S-glass spars, glass skins, aramid honeycomb cores and aramid trailing edges.
The SH-2G can climb at the rate of 10.51m/s. The maximum and cruise speed of the aircraft are 277km/h and 222km/h, respectively. The range is 1,000km and service ceiling is 6,217m. It can loiter in the air for a maximum of 5.3h.
Super Seasprite helicopter orders and deliveries
In 1997, The Australian Navy ordered 11 aircraft for Anzac Class frigates under a A$667m contract. Deliveries began in January 2001 and ten were delivered by February 2007. The Australian SH-2G (A) is fitted with the Northrop Grumman ITAS digital automatic flight control system and Penguin missile.
The SH-2G (A) received provisional acceptance into service in October 2003. The helicopters were grounded in May 2006, after problems with the flight control system and ITAS software.
A review of the programme was initiated in May 2006 and in May 2007, the RAN decided to continue with the project rather than pursue alternatives.
However, in March 2008, the RAN finally announced the cancellation of the programme. The helicopters were returned to Kaman for possible sale to another customer. Any profits obtained will be shared between Kaman and the Australian Government.
In 1995, Egypt ordered ten SH-2G (E) equipped with dipping sonar and a digital hover coupler under a foreign military sale agreement (FMSA) with the US Navy. Deliveries began in 1997 and were completed in 1998. Egypt lost one aircraft during a sea crash in 2006.
In August 2005, the Egyptian Air Force awarded a $5.3m contract to Kaman to modernise two SH-2G (E) Super Seasprite helicopters with an option to include two more aircraft. The two upgraded SH-2G (E) aircraft were delivered in February 2009.
Upgrades included the addition of a digital automatic flight control system (DAFCS), FLIR systems, health and usage monitoring systems (HUMS), ALE-47 countermeasures dispensing, APN-194 radar altimeter and AHS-1000 attitude heading referencing systems (AHRS)
The Polish Navy has four SH-2Gs, which were transferred from the US Navy between 2002 and 2003, to serve on ex-USN Oliver Hazard Perry frigates.
The SH-2G (I) Seasprite, a new variant of the SH-2G Super Seasprite, was displayed at the Black Sea Defence and Aerospace Exhibition and Conference held in Bucharest, Romania, in September 2008.
The New Zealand Navy ordered five aircraft in 1997, including two Anzac frigates and the Leander Class frigate, HMNZS Canterbury, under a NZD12m contract. Deliveries began in 2001 and were completed in March 2003. The New Zealand SH-2G is armed with Maverick missiles.
In June 2012, Kaman received authorisation from the US Department of State to negotiate the sale of SH-2G (I) Super Seasprite helicopters with the New Zealand Government. The company signed a $120m contract with the New Zealand Ministry of Defence for ten SH-2G (I) Super Seasprite helicopters in May 2013. The first SH-2G (I) helicopter made first flight in April 2014 and was accepted by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) in December 2014. The deliveries are scheduled for completion by mid-2015.