WELLINGTON, New Zealand, June 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of State has given Kaman Corp. authorization for a possible sale of its SH-2G(I) Super Seasprite helicopters to New Zealand.
The deal is for 11 SH-2G(I) helicopters, a full-motion flight simulator, training aids and spares inventory, a statement from Kaman said. Also included are publications, an introduction-into-service program and through-life support of the aircraft.
"The Kaman SH-2G(I) Super Seasprite is the latest version of the multi-mission maritime helicopter and is a candidate for replacing the country's existing fleet of SH-2G's," Kaman said.
"These helicopters would significantly enhance New Zealand's vertical lift capabilities with exceptional performance and low operating costs. Kaman continues to support the ministry's objective of extending the naval helicopter capability through 2025."
The first Kaman SH-2 Seasprites were developed in the late 1950s as a fast utility helicopter for the U.S. Navy. Improvements over the years have added superior avionics but the last SH-2G versions were retired by the Navy in 2001.
Export orders continue for new and renovated SH-2G(I) helicopters, a pure maritime version for surface surveillance, anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, search-and-rescue, troop deployment as well as general utility missions.
The SH-2G(I) version features fully integrated tactical avionics systems that are capable of being effectively operated by a crew of two.
The 'I' version can be flown in extreme sea environments from the arctic to the equatorial regions.
Kaman said confidential negotiations continue with the New Zealand government.
"No investment decisions have been made by New Zealand at this time and Kaman continues to work with other potential customers on the sale of the aircraft," Kaman said.
New Zealand Defense Minister Jonathan Coleman confirmed in May that talks with Kaman were ongoing for the controversial aircraft -- the same model of helicopters that was rejected by Australia in 2008.
Canberra canceled its order because the aircraft were considered unsafe and unsuitable, a report by The New Zealand Herald newspaper said at the time.
Coleman said the air worthiness issues the Australians identified had been corrected and there were still plenty of "off-ramps" before any deal was done.
Australia ordered the helicopters in 1997 but the project was delayed when modifications ordered by Australia failed to meet performance targets or were too difficult to implement in the refurbished air frames.
Australian media reports stated seven of the 11 helicopters were built in 1963 to 1965 and the other four in the mid-1980s.
Coleman said that what was on offer was up-to-date capability overall, not second-hand capability.
"The reality is we wouldn't buy it if it's not state-of-the-art capability that fits our need," he said.
The Herald report said Coleman wouldn't confirm the price but it is thought the 11 helicopters, worth $1.4 billion in 2008, would cost New Zealand $130 million-$230 million, depending on numbers and extras.
New Zealand has nine NH90 helicopters, built by NH Industries, on order for $770 million, the Herald said.
NH Industries is joint venture set up in 1992 by Eurocopter of France and Germany, Agusta of Italy -- now AgustaWestland -- and Stork Fokker Aerospace of the Netherlands.
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