Bell promotes its UH-1Y as a chopper to replace RNZN’s Seasprite

Might the trusty Bell Iroquois return to service in the NZ Defence Force? Bell Helicopters thinks it might – as a replacement for the RNZN’s Kaman Seasprites serving aboard the frigates.

Bell is to offer its latest “Huey”, the UH-1Y, but it is a very different beast from the Iroquois which spent 49 years in hard service with the RNZAF between 1966 and 2015.

Currently in service with the US Marines, it remains in production but represents a major advance with two General Electric T700 engines as opposed to one in the original Iroquois, a glass cockpit, modern fuselage construction and composite rotor blades much resistant to damage and deterioration.

Bell says the new model is completely “marinized” during construction, preparing it for operations at sea. The rotors can be folded within minutes for storage aboard ships. A special bracket is used to secure the blades in place in high winds.  It can carry a range of weapons and missiles.

With sales already concluded with Bahrain and the Czech Republic, Bell identifies Asia-Pacific as a potential market with opportunities in South Korea, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand. It also believes that the UH-1Y is suitable to replace the Seasprites due for retirement in the mid-decade.

2 thoughts on “Bell promotes its UH-1Y as a chopper to replace RNZN’s Seasprite

  1. It’s total unsuited for the role to replace the Seasprites unless you are a closet supporter of the Greens? As they don’t like anything that goes bang aka to conduct offensive support including for Peacekeeping Ops like INTERFET 20yrs ago.

    The Seasprite replacement will be either one of the Wildcat, NFH-90 or the Seahawk? But the main show stopper will be it must fit inside the hanger of the OPV’s and the new SOPV as well and that leave only the Wildcat. As the other two will fit the hanger of the ANZAC Frigate replacement and just a note both the Seahawk and NH/ NFH-90 fit inside the ANZAC’s, but only the Seahawk can to it within safety margins for operations at sea and be properly maintained inside the hanger within all Sea states unlike the NH/ NFH- 90’s which are just a tad to big for safe operation on the ANZAC Frigates according to RAN when they looked at the NH/NFH 90’s a few years ago. Thence they selected the Romeo version of the Seahawk as the Seasprite replacement as the safety margins for NH/ NFH- 90’s were just too tight especially IRT hanger storage and maintenance of the NH/ NFH-90’s.

    The UH-1Y would be the ideal replacement for the A109’s as I believe the A109’s can’t safely operate off any the RNZN vessels to the sink rate of the undercarriage of the A109’s in all Sea states apart from Sea state 1 and it is also not marinized either. Therefore lacking the utility that is needed for the NZDF as the UH-1Y ticks all the boxes IRT utility from Training to SAR, Naval ops, can be airlifted by C130 as the USMC does with theirs if they can’t get USAF support, it can be use for SOF ops as well and lastly it can be equip full weapons fit for those Chap7 and below Peacekeeping Ops aka like INTERFET 20yrs ago.


  2. The UH-1Y Venom doesn’t have an ASW / AShW (Anti Submarine Warfare / Anti Ship Warfare) variant and Bell would have to prototype such a variant which would require the integration of sensors, consoles, and weapons, always an expensive undertaking. NZ would not want to be the launch client for such a risky venture. It would also mean introducing a new type to the fleet which means increased associated operational, training, and sustainment costs. However, if it was acquired through FMS we would be able to access the USN Fleet Train logistics service.

    The logical and cost effective Whole Of Life Cost (WOLC) option would probably be to acquire the NHI NFH (NATO Frigate Helicopter) because I believe that if would give the best Value for Money (VfM). We already operate the NH90 and the NFH is a variant of that, meaning that we are not introducing a new type into service, so we don’t incur all the associated extra costs. The argument that they won’t fit into the ANZAC Class hangars is moot because those frigates will be replaced in the early to mid thirties if not sooner, depending upon how much the geostrategic situation within the Indo Pacific region changes between now and then. At present, it is deteriorating and has the appearances of continued deterioration for the foreseeable future.

    When we replace the Seasprites, we replace them for the future, not for what we have now and in the past, especially if the now is only for a very short period. We have done that before where we’ve acquired for the now and penalised ourselves for the future. When HMNZS Endeavour was built in 1986 the flight deck and hangar were only specified for the Westland Wasp, a rather light helicopter. When they were replaced 10 or so years later by the heavier SH-2G Seasprites the Endeavour’s flight deck wasn’t rated for them and therefore couldn’t the Seasprites, reducing its capabilities.


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