Royal New Zealand Air Force
ALTHOUGH THE New Zealand Army acquired its first aircraft, a Bleriot, in 1913, the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) was not established until 1934. Sixty years on, the RNZAF has been subjected to various cutbacks, particularly since the end of the Cold War, but at last it is seeing its front line aircraft involved in a number of upgrade programmes.
These include Project Kestrel — phase one of the P-3K Orion upgrade which is nearing completion by the prime contractor Lockheed. This upgrade includes fabrication of replacement wings and other components, plus project documentation. Phase 2, which is the installation and integration of these parts, is under study by the three potential companies decided on by Lockheed/RNZAF — Air New Zealand, Hawker de Havilland (Aust) and ASTA (Aust). It is proposed that the first aircraft will be reworked during mid-1997, with the other five completed on a nose-to-tail programme thereafter.
Project Delphi, the C-130H Hercules self-protection project, will equip three of the five Hercules with a missile approach warning system (MAWS), a counter-measures dispensing system (CMOS) and cockpit armour. Government approval for the project is expected soon. When approved, the prototype fit will be allocated to one of the aircraft overseas, scheduled for March 1997, and kits for the other two will be assembled for fitting in New Zealand by a sub-contractor.
The decision on what will replace the RNZN Wasp HAS. Is, which are operated by the RNZAF’s 3 Sqn, has been delayed by the New Zealand MoD until the Royal Australian Navy decides on its aircraft for the new Anzac class frigates. Commonality of purchase between the two navies would have mutual benefit and the outcome should be known by November of this year.
The MB-339CDs continue to suffer engine problems. There is ongoing dialogue between the RNZAF-NZMOD (which managed the contract), Aermacchi (prime contractor) and Rolls-Royce (engine supplier) to resolve the difficulties associated with the compressor blades. Meanwhile, eight to ten aircraft are available on a daily basis and it is hoped that a solution will be found before the end of the year. There are no plans at present to purchase any other new aircraft for the RNZAF.