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Kaman SH-2 Seasprite: The Antisubmarine Warfare (ASW) Helicopter

The aircraft for today is the Kaman SH-2 Seasprite which was the ship-based helicopter that was designed and developed by the US aircraft manufacturing company named Kaman Aircraft Corporation. The aircraft has been designed to be a fast-moving yet compact rotorcraft for the ASW (Anti-submarine Warfare) and utility missions.

The development of the Kaman SH-2 Seasprite was carried out back in the late 1950s after the US Navy paid down a requirement for a compact aircraft to serve the roles of utility missions. Kaman Aircraft laid down its submission which was designated as K-20 and got favorable evaluation. This led to the contract being awarded to the company for the development of 4 prototype aircraft as well as the first batch of 12 of these helicopters under designation HU2K-1.




In addition to the US Navy, the Kama Aircraft also placed effort into getting export orders in which the most particular one was from the Royal Canadian Navy. However, the contract with Canadians was quelled down after increased price demands and subpar performance of the Kaman SH-2 Seasprite during the sea trials. The subpar performance of the initial 12 UH-2s in service of the US Navy also got remanufactured. The major change in remanufacturing was to change its one engine configuration to twin-engine configuration.

Back in October of 1970, the Kaman SH-2 Seasprite was chosen by the US Navy for their LAMPS (Light Airborne Multipurpose System) helicopter which led to the aircraft getting capabilities to perform the anti-surface and anti-submarine threats. This new helicopter design was designated SH.2F. Under this systems project, many of the early developed UH-2s were improved to become SH-2Fs. Under this remanufacturing, the aircraft had increased weapon capabilities as well as shipboard sensors against the following enemy threats.

  • Submarines
  • Surface ships
  • Patrol aircraft

The Kaman SH-2 Seasprite went on to serve the US Navy greatly during the Vietnam War campaign and then in the Gulf War. In the aircraft’s routine operations, it would serve the following roles.

  • ASW aircraft
  • Search and rescue aircraft
  • Utility aircraft
  • Plane guard

Origins:-

Back in 1956, the US Navy placed down a requirement for a new aircraft which was to be an all-weather, ship-based and multirole one. Many companies placed their submission with the one regarding the most favor from the US Navy was the Kaman Aircraft’s model K-20. The earlier evaluation led to the contract being awarded to the company in 1957. This model was powered with a single engine and had a standard helicopter design that used the main rotor of four blades and the tail rotor of 4 blades. Kaman Aircraft was to provide 4 prototypes under designation HU2K-1 along with 12 production quality aircraft.

The aircraft underwent 2 years of heavy testing with redesigning the kinks in its overall design and finally, the first flight was made on 2nd July 1959. At the time this new aircraft was named HU2K-1 Seasprite and entered US Navy’s inventory back in December 1962.

Powerplant & Performance of Kaman SH-2 Seasprite:-

The powerplant of the Kaman SH-2 Seasprite series was continually changed during its service and production but all of them were of the General Electric Company and were turboshaft engines. The first model designated as UH-2A was powered with a single T58-GE-8B series turboshaft engine that delved the power of 1250 SHP while the UH-2F was fitted with twin T58-GE-8F turboshaft engines for a power of 1350 SHP. As for the best variant of the Seasprite series, designated as SH-2G, it was delivered power by twin T700-GE-401 turboshaft engines for a power of 1723 SHP.

Performance o0f the Seasprite series was considered above the average of any helicopter in its roles with the top speed of aircraft recorded to be 160 mph and range in between 670 miles to 870 miles while flying at a service ceiling of 20000 feet.

Armaments:-

After the scope of the Kaman SH-2 Seasprite was broadened from its SAR roles, the Kaman SH-2 Seasprite was cleared to carry many weapons onboard. The Kaman SH-2 Seasprite was fitted with the following weapons for the anti-ship and anti-submarine roles.

  • 2 of the Mk 46 torpedoes
  • 2 of the Mk 50 torpedoes
  • 2 of the anti-ship missiles
  • 2 of the AGM-65 Maverick missiles

Even the Search and Rescue models were fitted with a single mini-gun on its chin.

Service with US Navy under LAMPS (Light Airborne Multipurpose System) Program:-

Although the Kaman SH-2 Seasprite entered the US Navy’s service late in 1962, it was limited to SAR missions. It was not until 1968 that the Kaman SH-2 Seasprite was improved with the fitting of twin engines to have increased handling and power at sea. In 1970, the aircraft was broadened further as the aircraft entered the LAMPS program which was to supply the US Navy ships with ASW systems and the one suitable for this program was Kaman SH-2 Seasprite. These Kaman SH-2 Seasprites were increased in their defensive and offensive roles under the LAMPS program and were able to unleash their capabilities on enemy ships and submarines from any US Navy vessel. These UH-2 Seasprites under the LAMPS program were re-designated as SH-2Ds.

During its US Navy service, the Kaman SH-2 Seasprite was deployed in the active-duty line during the following conflicts and major operations.

  • Operation Earnest Will back in 1987 where the US navy fought against Iranian Navy
  • Operation Praying Mantis where US Navy once against fought against the Iranian Navy in 1988
  • Operation Desert Storm in 1991 where the Kaman SH-2 Seasprite was used as a coalition of the members that were trying to oust the Iraqi dictator named Saddam Hussein.

Total number of Kaman SH-2 Seasprites produced and other operators:-

The production of the Kaman SH-2 Seasprite was carried out well from 1959 till 1969 and during this time period nearly 184 of these Kaman SH-2 Seasprite helicopters were manufactured. Most were in inventory of the US Navy but other following countries also utilized them.

  • Australia
  • Egypt
  • New Zealand
  • Poland

Retirement:-

The service of the standard Kaman SH-2 Seasprite came to end in US Navy after the introduction of the Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk which was the navalized form of the UH-60 Blackhawk series. Along with the Kaman SH-2 Seasprite, the US Navy’s Knox-series frigates were also decommissioned as they were also not suited to handle the large-sized Seahawks. The US Navy retired its fleet of Kaman SH-2 Seasprite back in 1993.

As for the other operators of the aircraft, they are still using it but it is the much-improved variant designated as SH-2G Super Seasprite.

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