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P-3 Orion Fleet – systems upgrade approved

12 August 2004
Media Statement

P-3 Orion Fleet – systems upgrade approved

Defence Minister Mark Burton announced today that Cabinet has approved the proposed systems upgrade of the six P-3 Orions and given approval for contract negotiations to commence.

Mark Burton said that the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s P-3 Orion fleet will be fully upgraded to meet civilian agency and military requirements. The P-3 upgrades will be undertaken by L-3/IS Communications Integrated Systems of the USA.

The upgrades will cover the Orions’ mission systems and communication and navigation equipment. The mission systems upgrade involves the installation of new imaging radar electronic sensor equipment (video and infrared camera), and mission management systems. The upgrade of the communications and navigation will ensure the aircraft are able to comply with mandatory global air traffic regulations. The upgrades also include ground-based support and training facilities.

The two projects will be run in parallel for efficiency reasons and to minimise costs.

“This is another move towards the realisation of the government's goal of a modernised, well-equipped and sustainable Defence Force,” Mark Burton said.

“The Orions are critical for the surveillance of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone and surrounding waters, the Southern Ocean and the Ross Sea and to meet our South Pacific obligations.

“Whilst patrol aircraft, such as the Orion, have traditionally been used primarily to conduct maritime surveillance operations, such aircraft are now being used to conduct and support maritime and land operations.

“The Orion is increasingly regarded as a multi-role aircraft. Its ability to support both maritime and land operations significantly enhances the NZDF’s ability to achieve defence policy objectives.

“We use our Orions for surface patrol of EEZ – to look for illegal fishing etc, for search and rescue operations and recently they were in the Arabian Sea area in support of the international campaign against terroism.”

Mark Burton noted that the requirements for the upgrades had been developed from a whole-of-government approach and involved extensive consultation with government agencies.

“In addition to meeting civilian agency requirements, especially in the areas of fisheries and border protection, the upgrades will ensure the P-3s are appropriately interoperable with New Zealand’s security partners and therefore able to meet the Government’s wider defence policy objectives.

“This will enable them to participate in a range of operations and provide support to the Defence Force’s other maritime and land force elements.

“The Government’s decision to proceed with a full upgrade of the P-3s’ mission and communications and navigations systems, together with the recent signing of the contract for the Protector fleet, represents a significant enhancement of New Zealand’s ability to patrol its exclusive economic zone, the Southern Ocean and the Ross Sea, and to assist with the protection of our Pacific neighbours’ EEZs,” Mark Burton said.

The total cost of the upgrade will not be finalised until the completion of contract negotiations between the Ministry of Defence and L3/IS but will be managed within the Long Term Development Plan.

ENDS

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