New Zealand's Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman (Roslan Rahman / AFP)
WELLINGTON — New Zealand’s defense minister on Nov. 13 gave local industry an update on the planned delivery of upgraded naval helicopters and other pending improvements to the country’s military fleets, citing these as a sign of the high value the government places on defense and international security.
Addressing the NZ Defence Industry Association forum here, Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said the first three upgraded Kaman SH-2G(I) Seasprites are due to arrive in early 2015 from Connecticut, with the full complement of eight helicopters scheduled to be in Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) service during 2016. The NZ $242 million (US $199.2 million) contract with Kaman Aerospace for eight upgraded Seasprites and two spare airframes was signed in May.
Upgrades of the RNZAF’s fleets of five C-130 Hercules and six P-3K Orion aircraft continue, with three upgraded C-130s and four upgraded P-3K2s now in service, Coleman said. These upgrades will allow both fleets to remain effective and in service into the 2020s, he claimed.
As well, all five AgustaWestland A109 training/light utility helicopters and six of the eight NH90 medium utility helicopters have arrived in New Zealand and been accepted by the RNZAF.
“This government’s view is that defense is an important lens through which our foreign policy is viewed,” he said.
With a clear strategic vision in place, the next big challenge was funding. The government, he told delegates, had identified a $537 million shortfall in operational funding by 2021 and a $4 billion shortfall in capital funding by the mid 2020s.
Because there is no strategy without dollars, Coleman said, the government is committing to funding a defense force that is able to deploy independently on sustained operations and maintains credible combat capabilities.
“[That] signals to our overseas partners our commitment to contributing to international security ... It means that the capabilities inherent in the Joint Task Force envisioned for the NZDF in the 2011 Defence Capability Plan remain on track ... and will over time increase the regular force size of our Army, Navy and Air Force,” he said.
New sourcing rules introduced Oct. 1 take into account the total cost of ownership and other direct benefits, rather than just prioritizing the cheapest price, he added.
“I also want to encourage our international suppliers to look at ways to partner more closely with local industry,” Coleman said.