New Zealand plans to purchase smaller turboprop aircraft for maritime surveillance and military transport applications.
"It is likely to be three aircraft to begin with," says defence minister Wayne Mapp. The requirement will be outlined in the country's defence review document, a White Paper due to be released in September, he says.
New Zealand's air force has been using Lockheed Martin C-130Hs for transport and Lockheed P-3K Orions for maritime patrol.
"In the past, the thinking was that New Zealand only required these larger aircraft, but now the thinking is that having a smaller aircraft for some missions might be more practical," says Mapp.
New Zealand used to operate smaller aircraft for such missions, but phased out its Fokker F27 maritime patrol aircraft in the late 1980s and its Hawker Siddeley Andover transports in the 1990s.
© Royal New Zealand Air Force
Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130H in Afghanistan
Mapp says the three aircraft it now plans to purchase must be able to perform transport and maritime surveillance work in the South Pacific. New Zealand is often called on by its poorer neighbours to help with disaster relief and humanitarian aid.
Mapp says the two aircraft types in contention are the Airbus Military CN-235 and the Bombardier Dash 8 Q300. The Alenia Aeronautica ATR 42MP has not been considered, he adds.
Air New Zealand's subsidiary Air Nelson already operates Q300s, so it could help maintain the type for the air force, in the same way that Air New Zealand once maintained the air force's F27s.
Mapp says one advantage with Bombardier turboprops is that the aircraft is "a bit faster". Australia's Coastwatch system also uses Bombardier turboprops, he adds.
However, EADS says the CN-235 has an advantage because it has a rear cargo ramp, which makes it more practical for military transport tasks.