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New naval helicopter planned for New Zealand

A Royal New Zealand Navy SH-2G(I) Seasprite helicopter is seen at the 2018 Warbirds Over Wanaka Airshow. The New Zealand Defence Force has issued a tender to replace the platform through the new Maritime Helicopter Replacement programme. (NZDF)

A request for information (RFI) has been released by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) for its new Maritime Helicopter Replacement (MHR) programme that will deliver a new platform to replace its existing eight SH-2G(I) Seasprite helicopters.

The RFI – published on 24 April – seeks a medium helicopter solution that includes uncrewed aerial systems, through life support, training, and mission support systems. The MHR is expected to be in service for 25 years.

Under the 2019 Defence Capability Plan (DCP) the MHR was slated to cost about NZD1 billion (USD617 million). It must be able to conduct multidomain warfare in the littorals and interoperate with coalition forces – particularly the other Five Eyes countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the US.

The main roles of the MHR are anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; joint fires support; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR); and force protection missions, as well as performing a variety of supporting operations including SAR, logistics, casualty evacuation, and boarding operations.

According to the RFI, deliveries to the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) should start from mid-2027. Media reports have speculated that the RNZN's 6 Squadron, which operates the Seasprites, is finding it increasingly difficult to secure spare parts for the helicopters that may not reach the expected out-of-service date being forced to retire sooner after little more than 10 years' service.

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