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If not the F16s, then what? - National

If the Government cancels the F16 contract, its challenge will be to explain to New Zealanders what type of defence capability it envisages New Zealand having, and whether it will be adequate enough to ensure we play a full part in our security relationship with Australia, National Defence spokesman Wayne Mapp said today.

"The Government has the fundamental duty to advise New Zealanders what defence capability it sees the New Zealand armed forces maintaining.

"Given the assurances that we will "keep our end up" in the Trans-Tasman defence alliance, how does the Government see New Zealand doing that?

"Specifically, Labour needs to answer what will happen to the Skyhawks, and whether, given their age, they will be phased out, and if so, when? Will the aermacchi trainers also be phased out, and will New Zealand therefore be closing some air force bases and laying off air force personnel?

"National's defence strategy was very clear and involved a full navy, army and air capacity.

"National is of the view that New Zealand must be seen to be pulling our weight in terms of regional security. This requires balanced defences with combat capabilities in each of the services, including an air strike capacity.

"Doing away with the air strike capacity is but the first step in downgrading our total defence capability. Once it is gone, it will severely downgrade New Zealand's relationship with Australia and the part we are able to play in the region.

"Labour must tell New Zealand how it will ensure that New Zealand remains a credible defence partner with a credible defence force, despite its downgrading of our defence capability," Dr Mapp said.

Ends


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