The Royal New Zealand Air Force will send its first personnel to Europe in early 2009 to receive training on the German army's NH Industries NH90 tactical transport helicopters, with the nations having signed a new status of forces agreement earlier this month.

Signed by outgoing defence minister Phil Goff and Germany's ambassador to New Zealand, the pact outlines the conditions for the temporary stay of New Zealand Defence Force personnel in Germany for the purposes of training, exercises and exchanges. Goff desribes the move as "a significant milestone for the armed forces of both our countries".

One RNZAF instructor pilot and one crew member will arrive in Germany in early 2009 to commence training on the NH90, and are expected to stay in the country for up to 30 months. Germany was the first nation to receive a similar NH90 variant to that on order for New Zealand, and was also the first to introduce the type into service. In return, Germany is to send two of its helicopter pilots to New Zealand to learn how the nation operates its aircraft and trains its personnel.

NH90 Germany
 © NH Industries

Assembly of New Zealand's first NH90 has been completed at Eurocopter's Marignane site in France, with ground testing to commence shortly and first flight scheduled early next year.

New Zealand in 2006 ordered eight NH90s for NZ$771 million ($430 million), including logistics support, spare parts and training. To enter service between 2010 and 2011, the aircraft will replace its Vietnam War-era Bell UH-1Hs, and be able to support ground operations, counter-terrorism, disaster relief and counter-drug activities and search-and-rescue tasks.

Source: Flight International