Delays in the formulation of a tender for advanced trainers have led to the Royal New Zealand Air Force extending a lease on five Beechcraft King Air B200s by a year.

"The request for proposals for new advanced trainers is being worked on right now, but there is a slight delay in getting it processed," says the country's defence ministry, adding: "it is now likely to come out in 2009. As a result, the lease on the King Air B200s will be extended by a year."

New Zealand leased three B200s in 1998 and an additional two in 2000 to conduct advanced pilot training, but plans to buy new trainers outright and bring the programme directly under its operations.

As part of the package, the service is also seeking a simulator and other training devices, plus maintenance and support services.

Further details - such as the number and type of aircraft required - have not been finalised, and the ministry says the cost will depend on the final choice.

By bringing the programme under its wing, Wellington believes that it can train the required number of pilots at the right time, while achieving a higher level of flexibility and cost-effectiveness.

Training activities will support new and upgraded aircraft, including two Boeing 757s, five modernised Lockheed Martin C-130H transports and six Lockheed P-3K maritime patrol aircraft, plus eight NH Industries NH90 helicopters that will be inducted from 2010. Last year, it selected the AgustaWestland AW109 for its training and light utility helicopter requirement.

The service no longer has a strike capability, after the New Zealand government cancelled the purchase of Lockheed F-16s in 2001, and later retired its McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawks and Aermacchi MB-339s.

The nation's defence ministry still plans to sell its surplus aircraft, although the US government is not yet believed to have given the green light for disposal of the Skyhawk fleet.