New Zealand has selected the NH Industries NH90 helicopter to replace the Royal New Zealand Air Force's (RNZAF) ageing Bell UH-1 Iroquois fleet from 2009. Cost, numbers and delivery schedule are still to be negotiated, with the deal expected to be closely linked to the Australian Army's purchase of 12 MRH-90 configuration aircraft.

New Zealand defence minister Mark Burton says the new medium utility helicopters will "ensure interoperability with our security partners, allow New Zealand to participate in a range of operations, and provide valuable support to land force elements and other government agencies". RNZAF chief air vice-marshal John Hamilton says: "The NH90 will provide huge performance gains over the Iroquois that will enable greater weights to be carried further and much improve night and poor weather capabilities."

Decisions are still to be made on the replacement of the RNZAF's existing Bell Sioux training and light utility helicopters. Burton says "work is well advanced" on that requirement and will "move towards completion now that the preferred medium utility helicopter has been identified". New Zealand defence purchasing plans released last year indicate the overall cost of both replacement helicopter projects is expected to be NZ$400-550 million ($300-410 million).

Source: Flight International