WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand's budget for 2015/16 will include NZ $3.07 billion (US $2.24 billion) for the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), down $10 million from last year.

Almost NZ$1.994 billion is going to the three armed services: The NZ Army's budget rises 2.3 percent to NZ$742 million, the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) receives 2two percent more with NZ$759 million, and the Royal New Zealand Navy's budget increases 3.8 percent to NZ$492 million.

Budget estimates reveal that all three services underspent last year; the Army by $11 million, the Air Force by $10 million and the Navy by $7 million.

The Ministry of Defence's budget for appropriations, however, has been substantially cut, almost in half this year, from NZ$414 million to NZ$239 million. However, Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee says the ministry will receive new operating funding of NZ$27 million over the next four years.

Programs include Defense budget details include NZ$105 million to wards upgradeing the Navy's two frigates, NZ $40 million for Kaman SH-2G(I) Seasprite helicopters, NZ $7.4 million for new digital radios for the NZDF and NZ $7 million on pilot training.

There is also As well, there is NZ $25.4 million budgeted for towards the cost of the two-year "Building Partner Capacity" mission to help train the Iraqi Defence Force.

Over the next four years, the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) will each gain NZ $20 million, although for the coming year the intelligence service SIS receives NZ $5 million more and the security bureau GCSB NZ $5 million less than last year.

"The extra funding will ensure New Zealand buys equipment that is fit for its needs, and acquires it on time, to budget, and to the specifications the government has agreed," Brownlee said.

However, Brownlee acknowledges that the government has to replace "billions of dollars" worth of equipment over the next 15 years.

Independent defense analyst Gordon Crane told Defense News that later this year, the next five-year defense white paper is due to be published and will likely provide details of intentions to replace for replacing major platforms, including the Navy's RNZN's 27-year-old tanker and two Anzac-class frigates, commissioned in 1997 and 1999.

Also due to be replaced are the Air Force's RNZAF's fleet of five C-130H Hercules — one of which recently celebrated 50 years of operations — together with the six P-3K2 Orions, in service since 1966.

"They all are significantly expensive platforms to replace individually, only they are all coming to the end of their operational lives within a few years of one another," Crane said. "There was noticeable opposition to buying the Anzac frigates originally and the government of the day may face similar protests should it propose replacing the two frigates with three combat ships."

Email: nframpton@defensenews.com

Nick Lee-Frampton is the New Zealand correspondent for Defense News.

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