Payoff From Project Kestrel

  • Max Bradford

Technology developed to extend the life of the Royal New Zealand Air Force's six P-3 Orions has the potential to create a new export earning capability and a significant financial return for New Zealand, Defence Minister Max Bradford said today.

Speaking in Sydney at the roll-out of the first re-winged Orion, Mr Bradford said the Ministry of Defence and Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems will market to defence forces around the world the technology developed from the $100 million "Project Kestrel".

Under Project Kestrel the RNZAF's six P-3 Orions are being fitted out with new wings, tailplanes and refurbished engine nacelles (the engine mounting structure).

The new components, manufactured by a number of international companies under contract to Lockheed, were fitted to the aircraft by Hawker Pacific Ltd, based at the Royal Australian Air Force's Richmond Air Force Base near Sydney. The Royal New Zealand Air Force 's five other Orions will be refurbished over the next two years.

'The project - the first to extend the life of an Orion aircraft by this method - is designed to keep our 30-year-old Orions in operation over the southern oceans for another 25 years,' Mr Bradford said. "It is a credit to the ingenuity and skills of an international group of companies, under New Zealand leadership."

'Our P-3 Orions play a very important role, not just in New Zealand skies, but in the Pacific region. Over the years, many people owe their lives to our Orions and their dedicated crews. They are our workhorse for search and rescue operations, as well as our primary means of keeping a watch over New Zealand's fisheries resources and shipping lanes.

"Before Project Kestrel started, the Orions were amongst the most fatigued and corrosion-damaged aircraft of their type in the world.

"While the project began just as the most cost-effective way of maintaining New Zealand's maritime surveillance capabilities, given there are several hundred other ageing Orions around the world, we may be able to achieve a significant financial return as well."

Mr Bradford said the RNZAF and Lockheed Martin, the P-3 Orion's designer and manufacturer, worked together through the initial feasibility studies, design phases and finally the integration phases of Project Kestrel.

An agreement between the Ministry of Defence and Lockheed Martin recognises the joint ownership of the intellectual property developed from the project. The agreement provides for the Ministry of Defence to receive a financial return for all P-3 Orion aircraft whose operational lives are extended by means of the design and engineering know-how developed through Project Kestrel.

The RNZAF will make a presentation on Project Kestrel at the forthcoming P-3 International Operators Support Conference to be held in the USA in October 1998.