New trainers for New Zealand

Don’t get too excited, folks, but New Zealand has just ordered its first ejection seat-equipped aircraft since the government of the day controversially scrapped its air combat fleet back in 2001.

This type isn’t quite in the same category as the Douglas A-4 Skyhawks or even the Alenia Aermacchi MB-339s that the Royal New Zealand Air Force previously operated, but the order for 11 Beechcraft T-6C turboprops is a very welcome step for the service.

RNZAF T-6CWellington’s selection is also good news for Beechcraft, which has already sold variants of its “Texan II” to Canada, Greece, Iraq, Israel, Mexico, Morocco and the USA. According to Flightglobal’s MiliCAS database, it had a firm backlog for just 42 of the type as 2013 drew to an end, and needs to secure additional new buyers.

Sadly, the T-6C won’t bring any return of the secondary light attack role previously held by New Zealand’s MB-339s, as the new turboprops will be there only to train pilots for the P-3K Orion maritime patrol, C-130H and 757 transports and various rotorcraft.

What do we reckon the chances are of the RNZAF restoring a combat capability any time soon? After all, it’s still not too late for it to get those F-16s that it had planned to buy as Skyhawk replacements a few years back.


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34 Responses to New trainers for New Zealand

  1. Kiwi 27 January, 2014 at 10:23 pm #

    Restoring real combat capability is a pipe dream. But AT-6 Texans would be a logical first step at it.

    Politically, financially, and practically there is nothing in the kitty to support an air combat role in the RNZAF.

  2. Kiwi 27 January, 2014 at 10:34 pm #

    Why did this current NZ govt get rid of the MB-339′s?
    They had already been paid for so they were basically free.
    Why buy another less capable trainer which is designed to do the same job(train pilots to fly fighter jets)?

    I think there must be some politics involved.

    When questionable defence purchases are made do British journalists just accept it or do they investigate on the publics behalf?

    • Craig Hoyle 28 January, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

      I suspect that politics and economics were involved more than a decade ago, when they decided to and then retired the aircraft, and there was plenty of reporting done back then. For the now, they need new trainers, so what’s especially questionable about the T-6 buy?

      • Kiwi1 29 January, 2014 at 1:44 am #

        The jet trainers are still relatively new. The current national govt could have got them flying again. Why did they decide to buy the beechcraft planes when they already had better jet planes in storage.
        Did American lobbyists tell us to buy American planes. What was wrong with Italian planes that had already been paid for?

        Why pay over 100 million dollars for these planes unless sometime in the future we will be asked to buy jet fighters? The italian planes already had a light attack role.

        This decision does not make any sense.

        • Craig Hoyle 29 January, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

          I thought the jet trainers (or at least some of them) had been sold on to a private company in the USA already? As for why buy the new aircraft; it’s going to enable the air force to train for multi-engine fixed-wing and rotary operations for a low per-hour flight cost over 30 years. The MB-339′s no good for that requirement. And if American lobbyists had any real influence here, New Zealand wouldn’t have backed away from buying F-16s all those years ago, surely?

          • Kiwi1 29 January, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

            The Jet trainers were on sold by this current National govt.
            I think there is a high probability that they knew they were going to buy more trainers before they sold their jet trainers.
            Is the T-6 really necessary for pilot training with helicopter and multi engined transport aircraft?
            We already have a local manufacturer(Pacific Aerospace)that builds military air trainers. They were quite willing to build some more planes but they were turned down.
            What advantage does the T-6 have over the CT4 when it comes to training helicopter and transport aircraft pilots?
            The Americans were never happy with us when we stopped flying skyhawks. Thats why they never gave us permission to sell them until very recently.

          • Craig Hoyle 29 January, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

            It’s worth bearing in mind that the USAF flies about 450 T-6s, so there must be some benefit through that in support and enhancements made from the A model. The C’s also a good ride – I was lucky enough to fly the Beechcraft demonstrator in 2010.

          • Kiwi1 29 January, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

            Every 3 years, like clockwork, just before election time the current govt would proclaim that they were selling the skyhawks. Nothing would ever eventuate until recently when some were sold to America and the rest scrapped or sent to Musems.

        • ngatimozart 13 February, 2014 at 7:52 am #

          Kiwi & Kiwi1. In 2009 when the new National govt investigate reactivating the MB339s, the engines in the RNZAF MB339s were no longer supported by the engine manufacturer, Rolls Royce. Therefore it would have been very expensive to fly the aircraft, in that once something broke in an engine, that engine would be unrepairable. Re-engining the aircraft was not seen as an economic option either.

          As much as I would like to see the RNZAF back in the fast jet business, realistically to stand up that capability, would cost around NZ$4 billion and that is based on the SAAB Gripen C/D and the KAI T50. To put that cost into context that is more than the 2013/14 NZDF budget.

      • David Broome 31 January, 2014 at 6:33 pm #

        The reason boils down to the viper engines not bring great (thirsty on a per hour basis) and avionics. It was purchased as a bare bones option but would have cost almost as much to upgrade than to buy new.

  3. Brett Parker 27 January, 2014 at 10:50 pm #

    Nice scheme picture – though I can’t imagine it is ‘RNZAF official’.
    Re chances of a combat capability – already exists, in the form of the five Maverick-armed SH2(G)s [to be replaced by Penguin-armed SH2(I)s], and the five P-3K2s have armament options – though afaik, they are not cleared for PGMs.
    I think the NZ consensus is that there is no likelihood, under current geo-political settings, of the NZ Government investing in re-creating a ‘jet strike 75 squadron’. Just replacing the C-130s and P-3s will take up all capital allocations, assuming continued levels of funding.

    • David Caradus 30 January, 2014 at 12:07 am #

      Have a look at the RNZAF Official website. It shows the same colour scheme.

  4. Remarkable Kanoodle 28 January, 2014 at 7:01 am #

    ‘nough said, mate.

  5. GTX 28 January, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

    “Beechcraft, which has already sold variants of its “Texan II” to Australia”…Hmmm, that might be news to the RAAF which flies PC-9s.

    • Craig Hoyle 28 January, 2014 at 9:28 pm #

      Argh – my mistake – sorry RAAF!

      • GTX 29 January, 2014 at 7:21 pm #


  6. Fergo 29 January, 2014 at 10:12 pm #

    I take it the RNZAF’s new(-ish) SH-2G(I) Super Seasprites come with a type certificate? I imagine there are some mixed feelings in Canberra as they watch the Kiwis prepare to take on a batch of helicopters that the Australians decided couldn’t be made to work. I wonder if the Kiwis will have more luck?

  7. Kiwi1 29 January, 2014 at 11:15 pm #

    This is the NZ manufactured military trainer that the NZ govt decided not to buy:-

    The CT-4 is a widely loved aircraft that has trained many of the top military pilots over the past decades. Through the incorporation of modern avionics this aircraft has transformed into a proven agile and robust fully aerobatic (+6G to -3G) aircraft which remains at the forefront of ab initio military trainer aircraft.

    The CT-4 is a two side-by-side seater, single engine, low wing, all metal monoplane with fixed tricycle undercarriage that is able to operate in VFR and IFR conditions.

    The CT-4E model of the aircraft, with its well proven and powerful 300 shp Lycoming engine and three bladed propeller, provides a very capable aircraft which challenges the students while also being a forgiving platform. With the incorporation of an EFIS system into the aircraft it is at the forefront of high-performance trainer aircraft while retaining its legacy as a robust aircraft with low maintenance and operating costs.

    Known for its light, well balanced and instantly positive handling characteristics the CT-4 is the ideal platform for straight through airline pilot training and basic military training. In the later role it can provide a highly effective lower cost lead-in to the more powerful turbo-prop trainers such as the Beechcraft T-6B Texan II and the Pilatus PC-21 aircraft as part of an integrated training solution.

    • Craig Hoyle 30 January, 2014 at 9:53 am #

      Reads like the brochure!

      • Kiwi1 31 January, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

        Yes, its from their website.
        It just illustrates that the CT-4 is good enough for training pilots to fly the current inventory.

        • ngatimozart 14 February, 2014 at 10:44 am #

          It is an old airframe and they are apparently have structural problems with the CT4E. PAC don’t have anything that meets the needs of the RNZAF nor is the RNZAF in the position to fund PAC R&D even if it wanted too. The T6C is the best aircraft that meets the RNZAFs needs. These aircraft will be in service for at least 30 years, possibly 40 years and are built to take the punishment that they will be subjected to. The CT4 was designed with conditions at Wigram in Christchurch in mind where the airflow has less turbidity than it does in the Manawatu area. Less air turbidity means less mechanical force and stress on the airframe. I never liked the CT4 anyway. We nicknamed them the plastic mice for a reason.

  8. K.B. 30 January, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

    They don´t have got much flight hours on the clock, but they feature an old cockpit. So they are not suitable as trainer for modern aircrafts.

    For the current inventory they are overkill. Let´s take Austria for comparison. They train their pilots on PC-7 prior changing to helicopters (Alouette III) or cargo aircrafts. So NZ could buy and operate PC-7 MkII or Grob 120 TP for less money.
    I see primary three reasons to buy T-6C:
    1. Prepare for the introduction of combat aircrafts (AT-6C, fast jets…).
    2. Sustain the partnership with the USAF.
    3. Enable or develop CAS-/Air Defence-Training for ground troops – just like private companies in the USA or in Germany.

    • Kiwi1 31 January, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

      “For the current inventory they are overkill”
      Then the people who dreamed up this trainer procurement are not being honest and are hiding something from the public.

  9. Contrail 31 January, 2014 at 4:55 am #

    Why on earth would you want jet trainers when, apart from two B757s, all RNZAF platforms use props or rotors?

    What nobody seems to understand or bear in mind is that the T-6C is part of a training system, it is not just an aircraft, it is part of a training package, with simulation and so on and as such that leaves the Macchis and the CT-4 out in the cold.

    Incidentally, the RNZAF Skyhawks were A-4K (would it have taken look to look that up?) and the P-3K is being upgraded to P-3K2.

  10. FH 1 February, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    @KB – you missed one – 4. Organisational politics. I had some insight into the group that were stepping up this programme over the last 3 years and all your answers are wrong. It simply came down to the RNZAF wanting the most capable training aircraft for their pilots.

    The reason it got approved was that it became a ‘risk management’ and ‘safety’ issue. After a few fatalities (over a matter of years) the argument was that current training regimes aren’t suitable for modern mil flight ops, and to ensure our pilots are safe and capable they need a cutting edge trainer or the govt’s expectations for an air force can’t be met. I don’t have much of a view on this but I would say that, having flown with RNZAF helo pilots who had gone through on the CT4, they were still damned good even at night/low level/in bad weather. Credit to the project team for coming up with a very effective argument to get them $$ in a pretty austere time regardless.

    Something I can’t see in any of the reporting is whether we are buying, leasing or leasing-to-buy the Texans.

    • Craig Hoyle 1 February, 2014 at 9:18 pm #

      The T-6Cs are being bought outright; no lease here.

      • FH 5 February, 2014 at 8:35 am #

        Thanks Craig. I know that the various options were being considered as the process for procurement was being worked through.

    • Kiwi1 2 February, 2014 at 7:35 am #

      Sometimes defence purchases are purely political.
      I was under the impression that NZ puchased France’s mistral SAM in 1995 because the then prime minister wanted to improve relations with France after their spies sank the Rainbow Warrier. It was basically a peace offering designed to enduce warm and fuzzy feelings in the french and to let them know that all was forgiven.
      If the purchase amounts to a lot of money I am sure politicans and their advisors/lobbyists and even foreign diplomats will get involved in the decision making process.
      This is all done in secret and the only thing the public will know is what they read in the press release.

      • FH 5 February, 2014 at 8:44 am #

        Since defence is in many ways an extension of the political, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that politics is involved! The only reason we have the steyr rifle was because Australia was buying/building them.

        It’s not secret if you scan the wikileaks files – some pretty interesting pressure from the US against countries considering the Gripen. But yes, I agree with your point that a lot goes on behind the scenes while decisions are identified and refined.

    • mason 18 February, 2014 at 11:22 am #

      Actually according to Nz Airforce , we paid $154 million to own them,with training,sims,parts cover for 15 years. Its popularly used by USAF, and has the latest jetfighter avionics and weapons systems with hard points on wings for extra fuel, missiles , or guns. Though nz airforce hasnt mentioned using or supporting the role its maker and usa do now.

  11. Nicky 2 February, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

    For RNZAF, I would think the T-6 would be a perfect platform to train their pilots. They could have even gotten the AT-6 as well for the manned ISR, LAS and CAS Aircraft supporting their Army. I do think eventually they should be looking at Point defense fighters such as India’s Tejas’s LCA, BAE’s Hawk 200 or South Korea’s T/A-50 or F/A-50 Golden Eagle. Something they can use to defend their Airspace. Eventually looking at F-16′s, Gripen NG or Eurofighters.

  12. Phat Man 3 February, 2014 at 2:02 am #

    “Sometimes defence purchases are purely political.”

    This happens more than you might think. Just across the Tasman Sea your Australian cousins bought into the F-35 program not for any of the reasons given by politicians or officers. I was having a debate with an MP who was involved in Australia’s purchase of the F-35 and after being frustrated at having all his arguments shot down he finally admitted that if Australia didnt buy American stuff, the US would not defend Australia, or be certaintly less inclined to. If you are not a subscriber or dont have a base for the US to use, you can go jump effectively. Its kinda fair enough but nations have to ask themselves, do they really need them anyway? Its the largest protection racket in history I think.

  13. ngatimozart 14 February, 2014 at 11:06 am #

    As I said earlier the standing up of an ACF would cost around NZ$4 billion so say somehow the NZ Govt found NZ$4 – 5 billion for an ACF. What would we get? The NZG works on a LCC basis – the Life Cycle Costs so it budgets for what the equipment theoretically will cost over its service life. In the RNZAFs case such aircraft would be expected to serve for at least 30 but more likely 40 years. So whilst they would like to acquire with x attributes and capabilities, cost is a rather large factor. Also the NZG has a specific set of requirements any fast jet would have to meet. Since two of those requirements are a long service life and costs, i.e., acquisition and LCC, that would in my opinion remove the F16 from the equation. The F16 production line is due to close so we don’t really want the last aircraft off the production line because supporting such aircraft in 30 or 40 years time is going to be very expensive. We’ve already had experience with that. Andovers, the SH2G(NZ) etc.

    So that leaves the Eurofighter and the Gripen. The Eurofighter is too expensive to acquire and operate and it doesn’t meet all of the requirements that the RNZAF would require. It has to have a maritime strike capability. The Gripen C/D would be more suitable; relatively cheap to acquire and operate plus the ability to upgrade to E capability later. However it has short legs (short range) and that’s my only issue with it. It is designed to last 40 years. The Tejas will not be a contender. The Hawk series are like the F16 an old aircraft. So I would prefer the KAI T50 or TA50 as the jet trainer – light attack aircraft.

    However this discussion is really only academic because the days of RNZAF fast jet operations are now consigned to history. There is no political will or public clamour to see the RNZAF return to fast jet operations.

  14. mason 18 February, 2014 at 11:33 am #

    Even better,train us up in the new jet trainer aircraft , familiarise ourselves with Aussie FA18 jets,buy em in bulk cheap as when they get F35 jets

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