New Helicopters Represent Quantum Leap Forward

  • Phil Goff

The RNZAF's new NH-90 helecopter
Defence Minister, Phil Goff today signed a contract with NH Industries for the purchase of eight NH helicopters to replace the Royal New Zealand Air Force's fleet of ageing Iroquois.

"These new helicopters represent a quantum leap forward in terms of capabilities from our present Vietnam war era Iroquois helicopters.

"They are a vital enabler for all three Defence Force Services, for military and peacekeeping operations, for police and counter-terrorism work and for civil emergencies in New Zealand and the Pacific.

"This purchase is the last of the core capability projects on the ten year Long Term Development Plan, regarded as necessary to avoid policy failure.

"Ten years in development, the NH-90 represents current state of the art technology. It will be the cornerstone of the Defence Force capability over the next 30 years.

"The acquisition of these aircraft is an integral part of our new modernized, joint focussed Defence Force that is equipped with greater mobility through Light Operational Vehicles (Pinzgauers) and Light Armoured Vehicles, which will all be deployable in the new Multi-Role Vessel, HMNZS Canterbury.

"Compared to the Iroquois, the NH90 can carry 19 rather than 8 passengers or 12 fully equipped troops as opposed to 5.

"At 260 kilometres an hour cruise speed, it is more than a third faster.

"Its maximum range is 800 kilometres rather than 330.

"It can lift up to 4,000 kilograms rather than 820.

"Militarily it is far more versatile in deploying soldiers into action and in dealing with complex counter-terrorism operations.

"For deployments and disaster relief in the Pacific, with long range tanks the NH-90s can self-deploy.

"They are capable of lifting Light Operational Vehicles off the multi-role vessel in situations where there are no port facilities and landing craft cannot be used.

"For civil disasters in New Zealand or elsewhere, such as floods, earthquakes, snow, cyclones or tsunamis, they can operate for extended periods and with large loads in all weathers, day and night, with significant flexibility.

"For search and rescue, they have much greater reach and are better able to recover people in extreme environmental conditions.

"For border control, they can operate at night over land or sea in support of land and maritime interdiction operations against drug, illegal migrant or terrorist threats.

"The new aircraft have the additional advantage of being interoperable with the Australian Air Force which is purchasing 46 NH-90s.

"The total cost of the NH-90s is $771 million. More than forty percent of this cost includes logistics and support, which includes spare parts, project costs, training, software and equipment, as well as currency hedging.

"This cost will be met within the existing Long Term Development Plan in which $3.3 billion has been invested.

"The first aircraft will arrive in New Zealand in 2010 and the fleet will be fully in service by 2013," Mr Goff said.