Kaman Aircraft Corporation
First Flight July 2, 1959
Acquisition Source: National Museum of Naval Aviation Loan
In 1956, the US Navy announced a design competition for a new, high‑speed, long‑range multipurpose helicopter. The contest was won by the Kaman K‑20, but trials were lengthy, partly on account of the number of innovations made to the aircraft, and the first models, designated UH‑2A Seasprite, only went into service at the end of 1962. Eighty‑eight UH‑2As were built, and the sea‑gray aircraft with its fluorescent markings became a familiar sight on American aircraft carriers. Its successor, the UH‑213, was virtually identical.
The Seasprite , a conventional type of turbine‑powered helicopter, with a four‑blade main rotor and three blade anti‑torque rotor, replaced earlier piston‑engined helicopters for a range of duties that included reconnaissance, supply, carrier 'plane guard', communications, ship‑to-shore transport and casualty evacuation, although its principal role is that of search and rescue. Flown by a crew of 2, it could accommodate up to 11 passengers or 4 stretchers in the cabin, and had a watertight body for landings at sea. In flight, the wheeled undercarriage was fully retractable, emphasizing the aircraft's unusually clean lines. First UH‑2A deliveries were made to the U.S. Navy's squadron HU‑2 in December 1962, and the type first went to sea aboard U.S.S. Independence in June 1963. The. UH‑2B followed suit, in U.S.S. Albany, two months later, and both types were employed extensively in the Pacific and southeast Asia.
Originally, single engined, the Seasprite was redesigned in 1964 with twin GET58‑GE‑8 turbines in pods on either side of the rotor pylon, to give the Seasprite better performance and twin‑engined reliability. The conversion was so successful that over 100 UH‑2As and UH‑2Bs were subsequently converted into UH‑2Cs; almost as many became HH‑2Cs and HH‑2Ds. The HH2C was an armed and protected version. The HH‑2D models were obtained by converting 31 single‑engine helicopters to the standard of the HH‑2C, but without the weapons and protection, The US Navy then considered the possibility of using the Seasprite for ASW and this gave rise to the SH‑2D for the LAMPS (Light Airborne Multipurpose System) program; it was similar to the HH‑2D but had a search radar in a cylindrical radome beneath the cabin, MAD gear and sonobuoys (a few aircraft were also tested with dipping sonar). The launchable weapons consisted of two Mk.46 torpedoes or anti-ship missiles. Twenty HH‑2Ds were transformed into the SH‑21) ASW variant, while 194 of the. SH‑2F version, which is still in service, have been built. These differed from the SH‑2D in having a new rotor and stronger landing gear.