Australia and New Zealand step up efforts to work more closely on Lockheed C-130H and P-3 modernisation programmes

Australian defence minister Robert Hill and his New Zealand counterpart Mark Burton have agreed to increase information sharing on their Lockheed Martin C-130H and P-3 upgrade programmes.

The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) requires a new mission system for its P-3K maritime patrol aircraft, while the RoyalAustralian Air Force (RAAF) is seeking either the replacement or rebuild of itsAP-3Cs. The defence ministries say: "New Zealand has the opportunity to learn from Australia's P-3 systems upgrade, and similarly Australia can consider New Zealand's experience of structural life extension upgrade as these aircraft are considered critical to regional security."

The RNZAF needs a P-3 mission system upgrade, as a previous programme, Project Sirius, was cancelled in August 2000. After last year's disbandment of the RNZAF's air-combat wing, the P-3 is New Zealand's only armed aircraft.

Continuing RNZAF studies on the future of its C-130H transports will be considered by RAAF as part of an analysis of whether to replace or upgrade its fleet. "Subject to the outcome of the [RAAF] study there is potential for Australia and New Zealand together to provide air lift capabilities," they say.

New Zealand is seeking to finalise a major airlift study next month to enable a decision before year-end on whether to exercise options on five C-130Js, negotiated as part of Australia's 1996contract for 12 aircraft. The options expire at year-end.

The defence ministries also underline potential co-operation on future helicopter projects. They say: "There is potential for useful sharing of information on rotary-wing requirements." Australia is to issue a tenderlate this year for additional troop-lift helicopters.

The RNZAF is to seek approval late this year for a combined replacement programme for its ageing Bell UH-1H Iroquois and Sioux machines. If approved, the tender is expected to include options on purchase or lease solutions for the Iroquois replacement. The Sioux is used for training, with the tender package likely to canvass options for a contracted service.

The defence ministers have requested quarterly reports on the co-operation initiatives' status.


Source: Flight International