Thursday, December 11, 2008

Super Seasprite - What went wrong?

If you're wondering where the author has been these many weeks, take a look at the Rumour Control web site - www.rumourcontrol.com.au

You'll see there a link under 'Hot Topics' to an 18,500 word article written by myself and Max Blenkin on the demise of the RAN's Super Seasprite helicopter project. This is our contender for the prize put up by aviator Dick Smith and businessman Gary Johnston for the article that best describes what went wrong on this project.

You can also download it as a pdf - www.rumourcontrol.com.au/hot_topics/seasprite121208.html

Due to a scheduling problem of the author's own making this article won't be up on the ADM web site, where it belongs, for a couple of days, but check out the site anyway: www.australiandefence.com.au/adm

Max and I both know there are plenty of other strong contenders out there - between us all we should build up a pretty accurate picture of what actually went wrong.

To grossly over-simplify, this is what went wrong: Defence selected the wrong aircraft for the wrong reasons - its choice of helicopter was dictated by the Navy's plan to acquire a small, 1,250-tonne Offshore Patrol Combatant (OPC); but six months after signing the contract for the Super Seasprite, the Navy cancelled the OPC project. Defence then made the mistake of persisting with the Super Seasprite and compounded the error by mishandling the development and service entry of the helicopter, though the people involved generally believed they were doing the right thing, as they saw it.

It's a long, complex and very sad story. And it was all preventable.

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