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Steps towards modernising our Defence Force

Another major step towards modernising our Defence Force

Upgrades to the runway at Ohakea, New Zealand’s primary air base, will begin before the end of this year, Minister of Defence Mark Burton announced today.

“Ohakea’s runway upgrade was identified in the Defence Long-Term Development Plan (LTDP) as an essential step towards modernising the capability of our Defence Forces as a whole.

“Ohakea is NZDF’s primary operational air deployment point. In addition, it acts as an alternative airfield for long-haul commercial airlines, should either Auckland or Christchurch be closed. These upgrades will ensure that the runway’s load-bearing strength will accommodate both heavy military transport and civilian aircraft.

“Work is scheduled to begin in November, and Fulton Hogan Ltd and Higgins Contractors Ltd (FHH) have been chosen as the preferred tenderer, with a bid well under the original estimate of $23 million.”

The Ohakea upgrade is one of several crucial defence acquisition projects outlined in the LTDP. Also well advanced are the purchases of Light Armoured Vehicles (LAVs) and Light Operational Vehicles (LOVs). The LAVs, which will provide greater firepower, improved reliability, greater speed and better protection than the NZDF’s existing M113s, are currently in full production. Deliveries to New Zealand are expected to commence in June 2003. Tenders for the LOVs, which will replace the ageing Land Rovers, closed on October 30. These vehicles will provide general-purpose support to Army units with greater mobility and lower maintenance costs.

Mark Burton said good progress is being made on upgrading New Zealand’s defence equipment to date.

“In 2000, the Government inherited a Defence Force suffering from a decade of neglect. Our first step was to issue the Defence Policy Framework, which undertook to modernise our defence forces through the development of the LTDP. However, there were urgent requirements needing immediate attention.

“Our first major decision was to invest $120 million for the purchase of new Tactical and Mobile Communications Systems (TMCS) equipment for our Army and Air Force. Prior to this purchase, our NZDF personnel were burdened with unreliable, Vietnam-era equipment.

“The TCMS radios have greatly improved our troops’ communications capability. In addition, the reduced size and weight has eased the physical burden of transporting communications equipment in the field—a major concern in a challenging environment like East Timor.”

Mark Burton expects to bring papers to Cabinet on a number of other LTDP projects before the end of this year.

“Cabinet will be receiving reports in December on the status of the C-130 replacement/ upgrade, the P3 mission systems upgrade and the Boeing 727 replacement projects.

“Options for the upgrading of both the C-130 and P-3 aircraft communications and navigation systems are currently being evaluated. Work has also commenced on the Iroquois utility and Sioux training helicopters replacement study.

“Good progress is also being made on the major Naval fleet modernisation programme, Project Protector. This project, which drew registrations of interest from 21 ship-building companies from 14 countries, will see the Navy replace the aging frigate Canterbury with a new multi-role vessel, off-shore patrol and in-shore patrol vessels. These ships will allow the Navy to patrol our EEZ more effectively, and to work more effectively with other agencies, such as Customs and Fisheries, in their task of protecting our borders.

“Booz Allen Hamilton (Australia) has been selected as the preferred tenderer for the Joint Command and Control System Project Definition Study. Due diligence has been carried out by the Ministry and contract negotiations have been entered into. The completion of the negotiations is programmed to allow the commencement of this study in early November 2002.”

Mark Burton stressed the need for a considered approach to defence acquisitions.

“The LTDP marks the end of ad-hoc defence spending in New Zealand. This operational document ensures that decisions on individual defence acquisition projects are made in the context of the government's defence policy, overall timeframe and priorities across the entire NZDF, and affordability.

“This government is committed to building a modern, focused, professional Defence Force, with the necessary military capabilities and trained personnel, across all three Services. We are also determined to get the most value possible out of the $3 billion committed to defence capital spending.

“The LTDP clearly outlines strategies for achieving these goals, and I am impressed by the rapid progress we have made since June.”

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