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SH-2 Seasprite
SH-2F Seasprite of the US Navy
Role Anti-submarine warfare helicopter
Manufacturer Kaman Aircraft Corporation
First flight 2 July 1959 (HU2K-1)
Introduction December 1962
Retired USA 1993
Status In service with New Zealand
Primary users United States Navy (historical)
Royal New Zealand Air Force
Produced 1959-1969
Number built 184
Unit cost
SH-2F: US$16 million
Variants Kaman SH-2G Super Seasprite

The Kaman SH-2 Seasprite is a ship-based helicopter, originally developed in the late 1950s as a fast utility helicopter for the United States Navy. In the 1970s, anti-submarine, anti-surface threat capabilities were added to the design, including over-the-horizon targeting, resulting in modifying most existing UH-2 models to the SH-2 Seasprite.

This aircraft extends and increases shipboard sensor and weapon capabilities against several types of enemy threats, including submarines of all types, surface ships and patrol craft that may be armed with anti-ship missiles. It served with the U.S. Navy from the 1960s until the last SH-2G helicopters were retired in 2001.

Design and development


A YUH-2A during ditching trials, 1963

In 1956, the US Navy launched a competition to meet its requirement for a compact, all-weather multipurpose naval helicopter.[1][2] Kaman's K-20 model was selected as the winner.[3][4] Kaman was awarded a contract for four prototype and 12 production HU2K-1 helicopters in late 1957.[1] Kaman's design was for a conventional helicopter powered by a single General Electric T58-8F turboshaft engine, driving a 44-foot four-bladed main rotor and a four-bladed tail rotor.[2][3]

In 1960, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) announced that the HU2K was the frontrunner for a large anti-submarine warfare contract; the Canadian Treasury Board had approved an initial procurement of 12 units for $14.5 million.[5] Abruptly, Kaman raised the estimated price to $23 million, and there was concern that the helicopter's performance projections were overly-optimistic. The Naval Board decided to wait until after the USN had conducted sea trials before approving the purchase.[6] These trials revealed the HU2K to be substantially heavier, underpowered, and incapable of meeting the RCN's requirements. Thus, in late 1961, the RCN chose the Sikorsky Sea King instead.[7]

With no follow-on orders, Kaman ended production in the late 1960s after delivering 184 SH-2s to the US Navy; although production would be later restarted in 1971 to manufacture an improved variant of the helicopter, the SH-2F.[8] A significant factor in the reopening of the production line was that the Navy's Sikorsky SH-60 Sea Hawk, which was newer and more capable in anti-submarine operations, was too large to be operated from the small flight decks of older frigates.[9]

Further development

Upon enactment of the 1962 United States Tri-Service aircraft designation system, the HU2K-1 was redesignated UH-2A and the HU2K-1U was redesignated UH-2B. In service, the UH-2 Seasprite would see several modifications and improvements, such as the addition of fixtures for mounting external stores. Beginning in 1968, the Navy's remaining UH-2s were extensively remanufactured, their single engines being replaced by a twin-engine arrangement.[10]

A UH-2C aboard the USS Hancock between July 1968 and March 1969

The UH-2 was selected to be the airframe for the interim Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) helicopter in October 1970.[10] LAMPS evolved in the late 1960s from an urgent requirement to develop a manned helicopter that would support a non-aviation ship and serve as its tactical Anti-Submarine Warfare arm. Known as LAMPS Mark I, the advanced sensors, processors, and display capabilities aboard the helicopter enabled ships to extend their situational awareness beyond the line-of-sight limitations that hamper shipboard radars and the short distances for acoustic detection and prosecution of underwater threats associated with hull-mounted sonars. H-2s reconfigured for the LAMPS mission were redesignated SH-2D.[10] On 16 March 1971, the first SH-2D LAMPS prototype first flew.[11]

The full LAMPS I system was equipped on the SH-2F. The SH-2F was delivered to the Navy beginning in 1973. This variant had upgraded engines, longer life rotor, and higher take-off weight. In 1981, the Navy ordered 60 production SH-2Fs. Beginning in 1987, 16 SH-2Fs were upgraded with chin mounted Forward Looking Infrared Sensors (FLIR), Chaff (AIRBOC)/Flares, dual rear mounted IR scramblers, and Missile/Mine detecting equipment.[12]

Eventually all but two H-2s then in Navy inventory were remanufactured into SH-2Fs. The final production procurement of the SH-2F was in Fiscal Year 1986. The last six orders for production SH-2Fs were switched to the SH-2G Super Seasprite variant.[12]

Operational history

United States

UH-2 in flight over the Tonkin Gulf, 1970

The UH-2 began entering operational service in 1962.[3] The Navy soon found the helicopter's capabilities to be restricted by its single engine, and ordered Kaman to retrofit all of its Seasprites with a twin-engine arrangement instead; with two engines the Seasprite was capable of reaching an airspeed of 130 knots and operating at a range of up to 411 nautical miles.[2] The Navy would operate a total fleet of nearly 200 Seasprites for various duties, such as anti-submarine warfare (ASW), search and rescue (SAR) and transportation.[2] Typically, several UH-2s would be deployed upon an aircraft carrier to perform plane guard and SAR missions.[10]

The UH-2 was introduced in time to see action in the Tonkin Gulf incident in August 1964; the Seasprite's principle contribution to what would become the Vietnam War was the retrieval of downed aircrews, both from the sea and from inside enemy territory, and was increasingly relied upon in this mission as the war intensified, such as during Operation Rolling Thunder in 1965.[13] In October 1966 alone, out of 269 downed pilots, helicopter-based SAR teams were able to recover 103 men.[14]

A UH-2A on plane guard duty hovers over the USS Kitty Hawk in March 1966

In the 1970s, the conversion of UH-2s to the SH-2 anti-submarine configuration provided the US Navy with its first ASW helicopter capable of operating from vessels other than its aircraft carriers. The small size of the SH-2 allowed it to be operated from flight decks that were too small for most helicopters, this being a factor in the Navy's decision to acquire the improved SH-2F in the early 1980s.[15]

SH-2Fs were utilized to enforce and support Operation Earnest Will in July 1987, Operation Praying Mantis in April 1988, and Operation Desert Storm during January 1991 in the Persian Gulf region.[16] The countermeasures and additional equipment on the SH-2F allowed it to conduct combat support and surface warfare missions in these hostile environments, which had an often-minimal threat from submarines. The SH-2F was retired from active service in October 1993, at roughly the same time that the Navy retired the last of its Vietnam-era Knox Class Frigates that were unable to accommodate the larger SH-60 Sea Hawk.

In 1991, the US Navy began to receive deliveries of the new SH-2G Super Seasprite; a total of 18 converted SH-2Fs and 6 new-built SH-2Gs were produced.[17] These were assigned to Naval Reserve squadrons, the SH-2G entered service with HSL-84 in 1993.[18] The SH-2 served in some 600 deployments and flew 1.5 million flight hours before the last of the type were finally retired in mid-2001.[18][19]

New Zealand

The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) replaced its Westland Wasps with four[20] interim SH-2F Seasprites (ex-US Navy), operated and maintained by a mix of Navy and Air Force personnel known as No. 3 Squadron RNZAF Naval Support Flight, to operate with ANZAC class frigates until the fleet of five new SH-2G Super Seasprites were delivered. The Navy air element was transferred to No. 6 Squadron RNZAF at RNZAF Base Auckland in Whenuapai in October 2005. RNZN Seasprites have seen service in East Timor. Six additional SH-2Fs were purchased and are now stationed at the RNZAF Ground Training Wing (GTW) at Woodbourne near Blenheim as training helicopters. An SH-2F (ex-RNZN, NZ3442) is preserved in the Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum, donated to the museum by Kaman Aircraft Corporation after an accident while in service with the RNZN.


The HH-2C CSAR version from HC-7 during the Vietnam War

A YSH-2E "LAMPS II" prototype approaching USS Fox (CG-33), 1971.

Four test and evaluation prototypes powered by a 875-shp General Electric T58-GE-6 turboshaft engine. Later redesignated YUH-2A in 1962.[1]
Utility transport helicopter, powered by a 1,250-shp (932-kW) General Electric T58-GE-8B turboshaft engine. Initial production version. Later redesignated UH-2A in 1962. 88 built.[1]
Utility transport helicopter, same as UH-2A without IFR instruments, although these were later added without a subsequent change to the designation, 102 built.
H-2 "Tomahawk"
A gunship version based on UH-2A. One prototype was built and tested for the U.S. Army in 1963. The Army selected it in November 1963, but the planned order for 220 H-2s was forsaken for additional UH-1 orders.[21]
UH-2A and UH-2B helicopters fitted with two General Electric T58-GE-8B turboshaft engines.[1] One former UH-2A acted as a prototype and was followed by 40 conversions from UH-2A and UH-2B.
One test and evaluation helicopter. One UH-2C helicopter was modified with stub-wings and pylons for weapons trials, missiles fitted included the AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-7 Sparrow III air-to-air missiles.[1]
Redesignation of the NUH-1C test and evaluation helicopter.[1]
Search and rescue helicopter, armed with a single Minigun in a chin-mounted turret and two waist mounted 7.62mm machine guns, six conversions.[1]
Search and rescue helicopter, without any armament or armor but fitted with T58-GE-8F engines and four-bladed tail rotor, 67 conversions from UH-2A and UH-2Bs.[1]
Anti-submarine warfare helicopter, 20 conversions from earlier models.[1]
Two test and evaluation helicopters, fitted with an advanced radar and LAMPS equipment.[1]
Intended as the definitive version of the Seasprite for the LAMPS program. A 'lightweight' design for use on naval destroyers and escort vessels which had helicopter deck loading limits of about 6,000 lb (2,720 kg). Was to utilize the dynamic system of the basic UH-2 helicopter, but with a small, lighter fuselage, new skid landing gear, two Pratt & Whitney (UACL) PT6 (T400-CP-400) turboshaft engines and a three-blade folding rotor with a new rotor hub to keep the maximum gross weight at 7,900 lb (3,583 kg). Planned in three variants, ASW, CMD (Cruise Missile Defense, i.e. anti-ASM), and General Purpose.[22][23] The company designation for the SEALITE was K-820. Due to post-Vietnam cutbacks, the SH-2F was ultimately procured instead.[24]
Anti-submarine warfare helicopter, powered by two 1,350 shp (1,007 kW) General Electric T58-GE-8F turboshaft engines. Improved version. Conversions from SH-2Ds and earlier models.
1 SH-2G prototype converted from an SH-2F.
Kaman SH-2G Super Seasprite
Anti-submarine warfare helicopter, powered by two 1,723 shp (1,285 kW) General Electric T700-GE-401 turboshaft engines.


 New Zealand
United States

Aircraft on display

  • The only remaining U.S. Navy HH-2D, bureau number 149031 / callsign "Copyright 14", is currently on display outside at the American Helicopter Museum & Education Center in West Chester, Pennsylvania.[27]
  • An SH-2F is on display at the USS Alabama (BB-60) Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Alabama. The helicopter bears the markings of squadron HSL-31. It is supposed to be the first SH-2F delivered to the Navy in 1973.
  • An SH-2F, bureau number unknown, is on outside display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation on board Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.[28]
  • An SH-2F is on outside display at the intersection of Tow Way Road and Quentin Roosevelt Blvd aboard Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, California.[29]
  • An SH-2F is preserved in the Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum.[30]
  • SH-2F, bureau number 151321 is currently on display at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.
  • SH-2F, bureau number 149021 is currently on display on board the USS Hornet Museum at Alameda Point, California.[31]
  • SH-2G, bureau number 162576 is currently on display at the Wings of Freedom Aviation Museum, NASJRB Willow Grove, Pa.[32]
  • SH-2F, bureau number 161905 is currently on display at the New England Air Museum, located at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.[33]



Data from Carrier Aviation Air Power Directory[34]

General characteristics

  • Length: 52 ft 2 in (15.90 m)
  • Rotor diameter: 44 ft 0 in (13.41 m)
  • Height: 13 ft 6 in (4.11 m)
  • Disc area: 1520.53 sq ft (141.26 sq m)
  • Empty weight: 6,100 lb (2,127 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 10,200 lb (4,627 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × General Electric T58-GE-8B turboshaft, 1,525 shp (1,137 kW)
  • Rotor systems: 4 blades on main rotor and 3 on tail rotor


  • Never exceed speed: 150 knots (278 km/h, 173 mph)
  • Maximum speed: 141 knots (162 mph, 261 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 120 knots (138 mph, 222 km/h)
  • Range: 582 nmi (670 mi, 1,080 km)
  • Service ceiling: 17,400 ft (5,305 m)


Data from The Encyclopedia of World Military Aircraft[35]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3 (Pilot, Co-pilot/Tactical Coordinator (TACCO), Sensor Operator (SENSO))
  • Length: 52 ft 7 in (15.9 m)
  • Rotor diameter: 44 ft 0 in (13.41 m)
  • Height: 15 ft 6 in (4.72 m)
  • Disc area: 1520.53 sq ft (141.26 sq m)
  • Empty weight: 7,040 lb (3,193 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 12,800 lb (5,805 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × General Electric T58-GE-8F turboshaft, 1,350 shp (1,007 kW) each
  • Rotor systems: 4 blades on main rotor and tail rotor


  • Maximum speed: 143 knots (165 mph, 265 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 130 knots (150 mph, 241 km/h)
  • Range: 366 nmi (422 mi, 679 km)
  • Service ceiling: 22,500 ft (6,860 m)
  • Rate of climb: ft/min (m/s)


See also


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Donald, David ed. "Kaman H-2 Seasprite", The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. Barnes & Noble Books, 1997. ISBN 0-7607-0592-5.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 McGowen 2005, p. 60.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Apostolo, G. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Helicopters. Bonanza Books, 1984. ISBN 0-517-43935-2.
  4. Pattillo 2001, p. 211.
  5. Soward 1995, pp. 169–171.
  6. Soward 1995, pp. 244–246.
  7. Soward 1995, pp. 261–262.
  8. Pattillo 2001, p. 312.
  9. Lehman 2001, p. 183.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Frawley 2002, p. 100.
  11. Pattillo 2001, pp. 312–313.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Eden 2004, p. 219.
  13. Dunstan 2003, p. 152.
  14. Hearn 2005, p. 255.
  15. Boyne 2002, p. 343.
  16. Chant 2001, p. 54.
  17. Endres and Gething 2005, p. 492.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Jane's Aircraft Upgrades. Jane's Information Group, 2009. (subscription article) posted 20 March 2009.
  19. Stephens, Ernie. "Putting the "Super" in the Kaman Super Seasprite". Rotor & Wing, 1 October 2009.
  20. "". New Zealand military Aircraft Serials. 
  21. Harding, Stephen. Kaman H-2 Tomahawk and Seasprite". U.S. Army Aircraft Since 1947. Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1997. ISBN 0-7643-0190-X.
  22. Flying Review International, May 1970
  23. Soviet Naval Digest. Number 8, 1972
  24. Flight, August 1971
  25. "RNZAF – 6 Squadron". Royal New Zealand Air Force. Retrieved 2008-08-25. 
  26. "US Navy SH-2 Seasprite". Retrieved 26-January-2013. 
  27. "kaman". American Helicopter Museum & Education Center. Retrieved 2011-05-17. 
  28. "Aircraft on Display (H-M)". National Museum of Naval Aviation. Retrieved 2011-05-17. 
  29. "SH-2F on display, NAS North Island – Ray Trygstad's Maps". Ray Trygstad.,-117.194083&spn=0.002592,0.002508&z=19&iwloc=0004a37afc9cec156a07a. Retrieved 2011-05-17. 
  30. "Aircraft on Display". Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum. Retrieved 2011-05-17. 
  31. "SH-2 SEASPRITE HELICOPTER". USS Hornet Museum. Retrieved 2011-05-17. 
  32. "Kaman SH-2G "Sea Sprite"". Wings of Freedom Aviation Museum. Retrieved 2011-05-17. 
  33. "Kaman SH2-F 'Seasprite'" New England Air Museum Retrieved: 22 June 2012
  34. Donald and March 2001, p. 52.
  35. Donald and Lake 2000, p. 215.
  • Andrade, John M. U.S. Military Aircraft Designations and Serials since 1909. Midland Counties Publications, England, 1979. ISBN 0-904597-22-9.
  • Boyne, Walter J. Air Warfare: an International Encyclopedia: A-L. ABC-CLIO, 2002. ISBN 1-576073-45-9.
  • Chant, Chris. Air War in the Gulf 1991. Osprey Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-841762-95-4.
  • Cordesman, Anthony H. Arab-Israeli Military Forces in an Era of Asymmetric Wars. Greenwood Publishing, 2006. ISBN 0-275991-86-5.
  • Donald, David; Daniel J. March (2001). Carrier Aviation Air Power Directory. Norwalk, CT: AIRtime Publishing. ISBN 1-880588-43-9. 
  • Donald, David; Jon Lake (2000). The Encyclopedia of World Military Aircraft. New York: Barnes & Noble. ISBN 0-7607-2208-0. 
  • Dunstan, Simon. Vietnam Choppers. Osprey Publishing, 2003. ISBN 1-841767-96-4.
  • Endres, Günter., Michael J. Gething. Jane's Aircraft Recognition Guide. HarperCollins, UK, 2005. ISBN 0-007183-32-1.
  • Eden, Paul. "Kaman SH-2 Seasprite", Encyclopedia of Modern Military Aircraft. Amber Books, 2004. ISBN 1-904687-84-9.
  • Frawley, Gerard. The International Directory of Military Aircraft. Aerospace Publications, 2002. ISBN 1-875671-55-2.
  • Hearn, Chester G. Carriers in Combat: The Air War at Sea. Greenwood Publishing, 2005. ISBN 0-275985-57-1.
  • Lehman, John F. Command of the Seas. Naval Institute Press, 2001. ISBN 1-557505-34-9.
  • McGowen, Stanley S. Helicopters: An Illustrated History Of Their Impact. ABC-CLIO, 2005. ISBN 1-851094-68-7.
  • Pattillo, Donald M. Pushing the Envelope: The American Aircraft Industry. University of Michigan Press, 2001. ISBN 0-472086-71-5.
  • Soward, Stuart E. Hands to Flying Stations, a Recollective History of Canadian Naval Aviation, Volume II. Victoria, British Columbia: Neptune Developments, 1995. ISBN 0-9697229-1-5.

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