New Zealand air force adjusts procurement, operational plans
The two devastating earthquakes that struck New Zealand in the past 12 months are taking a toll on the country's defense procurements, which policymakers will be scaling back in response to government budget cuts. The government budget deficit is forecast to remain until fiscal 2014-15.
“With the financial situation being more persistent and long-lasting, we're having to take a more rigorous” approach, says New Zealand's defense minister, Wayne Mapp. “We are looking to deliver the white paper [objectives] in a more fiscally constrained way.” He says the ministry will be scrutinizing both the up-front and life-cycle costs of each acquisition.
The defense ministry is changing its plans to acquire new light transport aircraft and reassessing replacement schedules for some older aircraft. New Zealand had been considering light transport aircraft, such as the, with a view to using them for light maritime surveillance as well. But Mapp says trainer aircraft are a higher priority—the defense ministry aims to add two new types of fixed-wing trainers, one of which could perform light maritime surveillance missions, too.
New Zealand's trainees begin on Pacific Aerospace CT-4Es but they eventually need to fly on a more advanced single-engine trainer, says Mapp. The types likely to be considered for this requirement are the Beechcraft T-6 Texan II,PC-9 and Korea Aerospace KT-1, he says, adding that the country plans to order 6-7 aircraft for delivery in 2013-14.
For multi-engine training, New Zealand has been using leased Beechcraft B200s, small civil aircraft that do not have the capabilities of military trainers, Mapp says. The defense ministry may order 3-5 Beechcraft King Air 350ERs to replace the B200s, though Mapp stresses that no final decision has been made.
New Zealand wants to use the new twin-engine trainer for other tasks as well, he says, such as navigation training, VIP transport and light maritime surveillance. “A number of nations use King Air 350s for a range of roles,” he notes.
It would be more cost-effective for New Zealand to use its multi-engine trainers rather than larger aircraft such as the CN-235 for maritime surveillance. Mapp also says another factor working against the CN-235 is that New Zealand defense partner Australia has no CN-235s.
The defense ministry would like to sign a formal agreement with Australia that would guarantee the Royal New Zealand Air Force a set number of hours each year on one of the's , says Mapp.
In the longer term, New Zealand must replace its—some of the oldest still operating—and Lockheed P-3s. The government has stated that the C-130s and P-3s will be replaced by 2020 and 2025, respectively. But Mapp says the country “could get a few more years out of the aircraft” since re-deliveries of upgraded C-130s and P-3s were delayed considerably.
Some new aircraft are expected soon, though—New Zealand has nine NH Industrieson order, the first two of which Mapp says will be delivered this year. It has five AW109s on order, too, four of which have been delivered, he says. The AW109s replace Bell 47 Sioux helicopters, which are to be phased out completely within 12 months, and the NH90s will replace Bell UH-1 Iroquois that will be phased out completely in 2013, he says.
The air force is also examining whether to keep itsin the longer term. It is the only 757 operator in the region, so spare parts and maintenance support may become a concern, says Mapp. The air force has two 757-200s that it uses as VIP and cargo transports.
Mapp says the government is now considering operating another type of commercial aircraft for those missions, possibly one thatflies, such as , so that Air New Zealand Engineering Services, rather than the air force, could maintain them.
There have also been some suggestions that the air force should no longer operate VIP aircraft and instead outsource this work to a third party, he says. But Mapp notes that it may be important for a sovereign state to have its own VIP aircraft.
In 2008,did conversion work on the two 757-200s, changing the interior configuration so that the air force can operate them either with 142 economy- and 18 business-class seats or use them to transport 11 cargo pallets.