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.
Wellington’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.