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​Wellington outlines future airpower plans

Wellington plans to replace its Boeing 757 transport aircraft in 2028, outlining this and other initiatives in its Defence Capability Plan 2019.

The plan outlines the security issues that New Zealand will face in the coming decades, and the acquisition decisions it will make across all arms of its military.

For the 757 replacement Wellington has earmarked NZ$300-600 million ($198-396 million). It will start industry discussions in 2021, request for tender in 2024, and introduce the new aircraft into service in 2028.

The Royal New Zealand Air Force operates two 757-200 Combis for transporting both passengers and cargo. The average age of the aircraft, both former airliners with Transavia, is 26.3 years.

“Operations in the Pacific and globally will require an air transport option for the movement of personnel, equipment and stores over long ranges,” says the plan. “The eventual withdrawal from service of the current Boeing 757 fleet will allow for the procurement of a strategic airlift capability that meets capability requirements across a range of tasks.”

In addition, the plan reiterates the importance of the planned acquisition of four P-8A maritime patrol aircraft, and a plan to replace the air force’s five Lockheed Martin C-130H tactical transports with a new airlifter. On 11 June, Wellington tapped the C-130J as the preferred bidder for the C-130H replacement, with service entry targeted for 2023.

To complement the P-8A force, Wellington is talking with industry about an air surveillance capability to serve civil requirements, freeing the P-8As for longer range work.

“Investment in a range of capabilities will be considered, including satellite surveillance, unmanned aerial vehicles and traditional fixed-wing surveillance,” states the plan.

Requests for tender will be issued in 2020, with a service introduction targeted for 2023. The capital investment in this requirement is likely in the range of NZ$300-600 million.

Further out, the leased Beechcraft King Air 350’s that serve as a training platform will be replaced, with a service introduction of a new type in 2028. After 2030, an upgrade to the P-8A fleet is likely, as well as the acquisition of a long-range unmanned aircraft that can support both land and sea forces.

The Royal New Zealand Navy will also replace its eight Kaman Seasprite SH-2G (I) helicopters, with a new type to enter service in 2028.

“A new fleet of maritime helicopters will be acquired in order to support the naval patrol, sealift and combat capabilities,” says the plan

For this requirement, Wellington will consult with industry in 2020, and request for tender in 2024. The capital cost envisaged is over NZ$1 billion.

Nonetheless, the Seasprites will receive some hardware and software upgrades to ensure they are effective until the end of their service lives.

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