The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) has certified its lead Otago-class offshore patrol vessel (OPV) to embark the service's new Super Seasprite SH-2G(I) naval combat helicopter.
A series of qualification procedures, which culminated in an activity referred to by the navy as an 'Aviation Safety and Readiness Check', were completed in late August onboard HMNZS Otago (P 148) in and around the Hauraki Gulf.
The procedures included winching operations for goods and personnel, inflight refuelling trials, and a series of simulations for various operational emergencies, the navy said.
"Otago will embark a Seasprite for Operation 'Havre' to the Kermedec Islands, which will significantly aid in the transfer of the amount of stores [that] need to be transferred to the [Department of Conservation] station on Raoul Island", said the navy, in reference to the routine resupply tasks undertaken by the RNZN to the remote marine reserve.
The RNZN signed a contract for ten SH-2G(I) helicopters in May 2013 to replace its existing fleet of five older Super Seasprites that have been in service since 2001. The service formally accepted the first three airframes, which feature improved sensor, flight control, and communications systems, in March 2015.
Besides transportation of stores and maritime surveillance duties, the helicopters are also capable of carrying Penguin Mk 2 Mod 7 anti-ship missiles and lightweight torpedoes, giving the Otago-class ships improved offensive capability.