Super Seasprite Helicopter : Senator Robert Hill's Billion Dollar Blunder


CONTINUED FROM Super Seasprite Helicopter: Senator Robert Hill's Billion Dollar Blunder

ALDO BORGU: Every time you try to put advanced avionics and systems into an old platform, you run into problems. Every time you try to integrate new weapons onto an old platform, you are going to run into problems. Before you actually try to commit billions of dollars or hundreds of millions of dollars to these projects, have a good sense about how realistic it is, what you're trying to actually achieve.

[REPORTER:] Dateline has spoken to several US Defence sources who were stunned by the complexity of the systems Australia planned for the Seasprite. As far as Larry Kotz is concerned, it would have been better to keep it simple.

LARRY KOTZ: That wasn't done in Australia's case. They bought the whole, you know, kitchen with the sink and the automatic dishwasher and the refrigerator/freezer and they put it all in and they've had some growing pains. Now, my understanding is they're on track with getting that done and by the time they're done, they're going to have a very cool system. It's going to be able to track eight targets at the same time and do all kinds of nifty things. Whether that was a good way to go in the very beginning or to have done it slowly, it's kind of too late to worry about it now since it's already a done issue. If I was going to do it, I would have made a more simpler package closer to what the New Zealanders did.

[REPORTER:] The NZ Navy bought four old Seasprites for training and parts and then a further five brand-new choppers. These new Seasprites were bought virtually
off the shelf and use a missile system already tested by the US and have been in operation for the last three years. For its nine Seasprites, the NZ Navy spent around $290 million compared to the $1.1 billion Australia will spend on 11.

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NAVY OFFICER: The super Seasprite project has attracted its fair share of negative publicity and, yes, it is 3.5 years late, whilst remaining within budget. The delay has come about by the usual challenges faced by projects introducing leading-edge technology. The Defence Material Organisation has learned several important lessons from the progress of this program, which we've heeded.

[REPORTER:] One of those lessons was how to write a contract. When Defence agreed to buy the Seasprite, it also paid for a 10-year maintenance contract. But it forgot to link the two and as the project lagged further and further behind, Defence faced a $30 million maintenance bill for helicopters that are yet to arrive.

REPORTER: Did you find that shocking, though, that you can be paying for a maintenance contract and not actually have the helicopter present and that there's no linkage in time between the two?

ALDO BORGU: It's ridiculous. I don't think anybody can basically argue against that.

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This page was last updated Fri Sep 17 02:39:23 2004 Pacific time