The Navy has successfully conducted trials of flying an SH-2G Seasprite helicopter from the deck of one of its Offshore Patrol Vessels, HMNZS OTAGO, marking a significant milestone in achieving the ship’s full operational potential.
The trials have been conducted over the past month during which the Seasprite conducted 161 landings and takeoffs from OTAGO’s flight deck. The landings and takeoffs were done by day and by night in varying wind and sea conditions in the Hauraki Gulf and the Bay of Plenty sea areas.
“Operating helicopters from ships underway at sea is one of the most challenging activities any Navy undertakes,” says Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral Tony Parr. “We have been flying helicopters from the frigates for many years, but now we are learning how to operate these aircraft from a different ship with different characteristics.”
The trials proved that the Seasprite can conduct an airborne surveillance task from the OPV of up to 2.5 hours duration, which should enable 4500 square nautical miles to be covered in a single sortie by day or night.
“The trials have proven the helicopter can operate off the ship across a wide range of sea and wind conditions. Although it will be some time before the full potential is released the Navy can now begin helicopter operations during which time we will continue to learn and develop our capability.”
The two Offshore Patrol Vessels—OTAGO and WELLINGTON— are large, complex vessels that operate from the freezing cold of the Southern Ocean to the tropical heat of the Pacific Islands, giving New Zealand a broad patrol and surveillance capability.
“The ability to land a helicopter on a ship underway at sea by day and night in different wind and sea conditions requires a rigorous and demanding test programme to determine what the limits of operation might be,” said Admiral Parr. “The team in OTAGO, which included a number of RNZAF Seasprite technicians, were often operating in challenging conditions. Nevertheless the trials were completed in a thoroughly professional, safe and timely manner.
“There will still be a considerable period of learning as we gain experience operating the aircraft on actual deployments.”
Naval Today Staff, May 28, 2012; Image: New Zealand Navy