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.