Naval aviation comprises a mix of Navy and Air Force personnel who operate and maintain a fleet of five Seasprite SH-2G helicopters, known as No 6 Squadron. No. 6 Squadron is based at RNZAF Base Auckland in Whenuapai.
The helicopters are located, maintained and flown from there; they are then deployed onboard Navy ships TE KAHA and TE MANA.
Navy pilots, trained by the RNZAF, fly and crew the Seasprite helicopters. Navy Airborne Tactical Officers (TACCOs), trained by the Royal Australian Navy, manage the mission. Navy Helicopter Crewmen, trained with RNZAF crewmen at Ohakea, perform varied tasks onboard from rescue hoists to aerial photography, load lifting and vertical replenishment. Technicians from the RNZAF maintain the helicopters and are required to go to sea onboard HMNZ Ships TE MANA and TE KAHA.
History of Naval Aviation
New Zealand Naval Aviation was born during the First World War, when volunteers served with Royal Naval Air Squadrons under the RNZNVR scheme. During the Second World War, New Zealand volunteers again joined the Royal Naval Fleet Air Arm and saw action in both the Atlantic and Pacific theatres.
In 1936 organic air power was introduced to New Zealand with HMS ACHILLES and her aircraft; ACHILLES became the first New Zealand ship to conduct regular maritime aviation. Along with HMS LEANDER, these ships operated catapult-launched Walrus fixed wing aircraft, which were stationed at Hobsonville when not embarked. In 1939 HMS ACHILLES was the first New Zealand ship to see action, with her embarked aircraft, at the Battle of the River Plate.
No. 3 Squadron RNZAF was formed as a territorial unit in Christchurch in 1930, and by 1938 was flying Baffins, and later Vincents, serving in Guadalcanal during the Second World War. It was the first RNZAF Squadron to engage the Japanese during WWII After the war the Squadron operated Tiger Moths, Harvards and Mustangs before disbanding in 1957.
It reformed in 1965 as the first RNZAF Helicopter Squadron, flying the Sioux and the Iroquois helicopters at Hobsonville. In 1966, No. 3 Squadron took delivery of several Westland HAS Mk1 Wasp helicopters, which served with distinction on all Leander Class Frigates over the next 32 years.
Naval Support Flight (NSF) formed as a part of No. 3 Squadron in 1977 and continued to fly the Wasp helicopter service until 1998. Then the Kaman SH-2F Seasprite, operated for three years whilst the SH-2G (NZ) Seasprite helicopters were being built, replaced the aircraft. In July 1998, Naval Support Flight moved from their historic home at Hobsonville to the Whenuapai air base.
NSF was reformed as No. 6 Squadron, RNZAF in October 2005.
Naval aircraft have been involved in the following:
Multi-National Interdiction Force 1980s, 1996, 1999;
Operation Enduring Freedom 2002, 2003, 2004.
Peace Support Operations:
Bougainville and Papua New Guinea 1990s;
East Timor 1999-2000;
Solomon Islands 2000, 2001.
The Seasprite landing on the deck of HMNZS TE KAHA
Tight Seasprite formation at 2008 airshow