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New Helicopters Represent Quantum Leap Forward

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Defence

31st July 2006

New Helicopters Represent Quantum Leap Forward

Defence Minister, Phil Goff today signed a contract with NH Industries for the purchase of eight NH90 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 NH-90 is likely to become the most widely used medium utility helicopter among our security partners.

"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.

NH90 Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the RNZAF need new helicopters?
The RNZAF Iroquois fleet has been in service for 40 years. The Iroquois no longer offers the load carrying capacity, self-protection, communications or navigation equipment required and available in a modern aircraft. The lack of capacity and capability increases the risk in military helicopter operations and limits the service the RNZAF helicopters can provide.

What is the NH90?
The NH90 is an advanced medium utility helicopter, capable of undertaking a wide variety of roles. It was developed to meet a European requirement to replace a range of aging helicopters. The NH90 is a product of more than 10 years of development and testing to meet stringent capability and low maintenance requirements.

Why was the NH90 chosen as the new helicopter?
The NH90 is a modern helicopter, which will form the cornerstone of the New Zealand Defence Force capability over the next 30 years. The helicopter incorporates new and sustainable technologies and will ensure greater compatibility with our security partners. The NH90 represents a substantial improvement on the Iroquois and will provide the NZDF with a contemporary, highly capable and deployable helicopter.

How many NH90 helicopters will the RNZAF get?
The Minister of Defence has signed a contract with NH Industries for the purchase of eight NH90 helicopters.

What will be the role of the NH90?
The NH90 will be used for frontline military and civil operations. It has the capability to support ground operations, counter terrorism, disaster relief, search and rescue and counter-drug operations. Police, Customs, Maritime NZ, Civil Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade and NZAID and the Department of Conservation all will be able to make effective use of the NH90.

Is the NH90 compatible with other Defence Equipment?
The NH90 can carry up to 12 fully equipped soldiers or up to 19 lightly equipped passengers and lift an Army Light Operational Vehicle. Up to four NH90S will be able to be transported aboard the new Navy, Multi Role Vessel. The NH90 can be deployed by C130 Hercules aircraft, or self-deploy to Australia and most of the Pacific Islands.

How much will they cost?
The fleet of eight NH90s will be acquired with a logistics and support package which includes a range of ongoing provisions for spare parts, project costs, training, software, publications support and equipment. The total cost of eight NH90s and the full support and logistics package is $771million. The support and logistics costs represent over a third of this total. The budget for the helicopter project has been allocated through the ten-year Defence Long Term Development Plan

The final cost of the aircraft reflects a number of factors including the downward movement of the New Zealand dollar over the last year.

It also reflects that purchase from a commercial provider, NHI, as distinct from a purchase from the United States military, involves costing spare parts and logistics as part of the upfront capital costs.

When military equipment is purchased from the United States military through foreign military sales arrangements, spare parts are purchased on an as required basis and funded out of operating budgets.

Where does the Budget come from?
In 2002 the Government identified the Helicopter Capability Project as one of a range of critical Defence projects. The Government allocated a lump sum to Defence for redevelopment and refocus of the Defence Force through the ten-year Defence Long Term Development Plan. The purchase can be managed within the existing defence acquisition programme.

What is the timeline for getting the new helicopters?
The first helicopter is expected in New Zealand by early 2010, with the fleet fully in service in 2013.

Where will the new fleet be manufactured?
The fleet will be manufactured in France.

Will the NH90 be interoperable with our security Partners?
The NH90 has the cabin-size, lift capacity, self protection systems and communications systems that will ensure the aircraft are fully interoperable with our security partners.

What other countries operate the NH90?
Australia has purchased 46 NH90 to replace its Blackhawk and Navy Seaking Helicopters. Sweden, Finland, Oman and NATO countries France, Italy, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal, Greece and Norway have also ordered the NH90 with other countries currently in negotiation with NH Industries.

How will the RNZAF transition from the Iroquois to the new NH90?
A transition plan, which will be updated as the Helicopter Project progresses, has been developed by the RNZAF. It takes into account the requirement to maintain an effective helicopter capability whilst also recruiting and training new and existing personnel. The Iroquois will be phased out by 2013

Where will the crews be trained?
Initial flying and maintenance training will be done overseas – once the helicopters have arrived in New Zealand, a domestic training programme will begin.

Where will the new helicopters operate from?
The NH90 will operate out of RNZAF Base Ohakea. New hangers that were already planned as part of the plan to consolidate air force operations at Ohakea will be sufficient for the new fleet.

ENDS

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