Kaman SH-2 Seasprite / Super Seasprite Ship-based Anti-Submarine Helicopter
The Kaman SH-2 Seasprite series found a home in the ranks of the United States Navy beginning in late 1962.
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The Kaman SH-2 Seasprite helicopter has served a lengthy and respected career in the navies of several nations across the globe though most notably the system has been associated with its service through the United States Navy. She began life as a utility-minded system charged with the rescue of downed airmen at sea but her role was substantially evolved to that of submarine hunter while in the middle of her tenure. At least 200 examples of this navalized multi-mission helicopter were produced with many converted or upgraded to other more potent and useful forms.
The Need and Development
In 1956, the United States Navy (USN) came calling for an all-weather, multi-role, ship-based helicopter. After evaluation of available submissions, the Kaman Aircraft (Kaman Aerospace Corporation of Bloomfield, Connecticut) model K-20 was selected for further development and a contract was drawn up n 1957. The model K-20 was powered by a single engine (this a General Electric T58-8F turboshaft) and sported a conventional helicopter design utilizing a four-blade main rotor and a four-blade tail rotor, the latter facing out of the portside of the aircraft's tail unit. Kaman to delivered four K-20 YHU2K-1 prototypes for evaluation and these were subsequently followed by twelve production-quality models. A lengthy period covering various trials surrounded the YHU2K-1s, the process helping to work out any major (and minor) kinks in the design for helicopters generally tended to require more in the way of testing than her fixed-wing counterparts. First flight was achieved on July 2nd, 1959. The system was then assigned the production designation of "HU2K-1 Seasprite" and officially began appearing in the USN inventory in December of 1962. By this time, the American aircraft designation system had changed, revising the designation of just about every aircraft in inventory - be they USAF, USN or USMC in nature. As such, the HU2K-1 now became known as the "UH-2B Seasprite". Similarly, the follow-up production HU2K-1U now became known as the UH-2B.
Kaman SH-2F Seasprite Walk-Around
Despite its conventional layout, the Kaman Seasprite (using an SH-2F as our visual model) still maintained a decidedly unique appearance when compared to the helicopters of the USN before and after the Seasprite's inception. There was a noticeable cylindrical fitting under the cockpit floor containing applicable sensors. She featured a short nose assembly just ahead of the windowed cockpit. The cockpit was crewed by two personnel seated in a side-by-side arrangement with redundant controls. Entry doors were positioned along both sides of the forward cockpit with access granted by sliding these systems towards the rear. In all, there was a standard crew of three personnel made up of the pilot, co-pilot and the Sensor Operator (SENSO). The co-pilot doubled as the Tactical Coordinator (TACCO). The crew cabin was situated directly behind the cockpit and made up a large portion of the fuselage interior. Windowed access doors slid open to allow passengers and specialists entry/exit. In its dual-engine configuration (beginning in 1968), the twin powerplants were mounted high atop the crew cabin area with each engine fitted to the rotor base housing sides. The engine nacelles were tubular and ran the length of the crew cabin ceiling. The empennage was held by a stout tail assembly capped by a single vertical tail fin. There was a horizontal plane fitted low to each side of the tail fin. The main rotor sported a four-bladed design while the tail rotor - set to the portside of the aircraft at the extreme top of the vertical tail fin - featured four blades. The undercarriage was retractable (to an extent) and made up of two main landing gear legs, these with a double-tired arrangement, and a single-wheeled tail wheel leg fitted at the base of the empennage. The main legs retracted into and under the fuselage sides while the tail wheel leg remained static. Specialized surface warfare equipment and weaponry could be carried along the two stub pylon hardpoints fitted to each fuselage side (below and just behind the crew cabin doors).
Give the Girl Some Arms
Once her mission scope had been broadened from the initial Search & Rescue functions, the Seasprite was cleared to field a pair of Mk 46 or Mk 50 torpedoes for anti-submarine work. Those Seasprites not in service with the USN made use of anti-ship and other air-to-surface missiles in a like role. One particular Search & Rescue model was even fitted with a chin-mounted minigun emplacement.