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Australia scraps military helicopter contract Mar 5th, 2008

Australia scraps military helicopter contract By Rob Taylor

CANBERRA, March 5 (Reuters) - Australia's military will scrap a A$1.1 billion ($1 billion) contract to supply its navy with Kaman Corp-built (KAMN.O: Quote, Profile, Research) Super Seasprite helicopters, Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said on Wednesday.

The 11 helicopters, a contract for which was signed in 1997, have been plagued by software and development problems and have not been accepted for use on Australian warships.

"The government has decided that it intends to cancel the project. Today's announcement demonstrates our determination to make tough decisions whenever required for the security of the nation," Fitzgibbon said in a statement.

In a separate statement, Kaman said it had been notified of the plan.

The twin-engine SG-2G Super Seasprites, which carry Penguin anti-ship missiles, were supposed to provide Australia's navy with a maritime strike and surveillance capability.

But the refurbished Vietnam-era helicopters were unable to be adapted for use with more recent Australian military technology and the delivery of the aircraft had been running more than six years late.

Fitzgibbon said Australia would now look to upgrade existing Sikorsky-built Seahawk navy helicopters before deciding whether to buy newer MH-60 Seahawk aircraft or European-built NH-90s used by the rest of the country's military. Continued...
A replacement will likely cost another A$1.5 billion. Sikorsky is a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation (UTX.N: Quote, Profile, Research), while the NH-90 is built by European aerospace group EADS (EAD.PA: Quote, Profile, Research).

Fitzgibbon last week said Australia had up to A$23 billion ($21.4 billion) worth of risky defence projects underway and would re-think several costly purchases, including 24 Super Hornet fighter planes from Boeing (BA.N: Quote, Profile, Research).

Australia, a close U.S. ally, has embarked on a A$61 billion military upgrade, with contracts signed or being negotiated for fighter aircraft, tanks, missile destroyers, aircraft carriers, cruise missiles and both attack and transport helicopters.

Kaman executives last year threatened legal action if the Seasprite was axed, arguing the helicopters were safe to fly with with only Australian airworthiness procedures yet to be met.

"Although we have created a highly capable aircraft for the Royal Australian Navy and continue to fulfill our obligations to the Commonwealth under our contract, we appreciate the thoughtful approach and time invested by the current Government in addressing our program and we will work with them toward arriving at a satisfactory arrangement," Kaman Chief Executive Neal J Keating said in a statement released on March 4 in the United States.



Dr Carlo Kopp, MIEEE, SMAIAA, PEng
Defence Analyst and Consulting Engineer
Editor: Air Power Australia @ http://www.ausairpower.net