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Goff: modified Air Force Boeing 757 welcome

Phil Goff

19 August, 2008
Speech to officially welcome of first modified Air Force Boeing 757 in Wellington

CDF, Lieutenant General Jerry Mateparae, CAF, Air Vice Marshal Graham Lintott, ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to formally welcome the first of our modified B757s home.

This aircraft is the first of the Air Force’s modified fixed wing fleet to be completed. It has undergone a major refit and upgrade and will provide enhanced capability for the Air Force.

The second B757 is due to arrive home later this year, as is the first of the Air Force’s five C-130 Hercules, which are being upgraded. The first of our six P-3 Orion aircraft is expected home in the second half of 2009.

The fleets are undergoing major life extension and upgrade projects, which at $221 million, $234 million and $352 million, respectively for each of the fleets represents a significant investment in RNZAF capabilities.

This follows an outlay of $900 million in the past 12 months for eight NH-90 medium utility helicopters and five Agusta-Westland A109LUH helicopters and a flight simulator.

The combination of this investment provides the Air Force with state of the art equipment which will serve New Zealand well, in the case of the helicopters for up to 30 years.

The 757s have been specifically modified to suit our requirements as a multi role aircraft.

In October 2005, Mobile Aerospace Engineering (MAE) of Alabama was selected as the prime system integration contractor for the project. Specialist design and support was supplied by Boeing Integrated Defence Systems.

The 757s will greatly enhance the NZDF’s strategic airlift capability to deploy New Zealand troops to overseas missions and evacuate New Zealand citizens should the need arise.

They provide much greater flexibility in this area than the 727s they replaced. The modified aircraft have greater range and payload capacity to perform a combination of freight/passenger roles, a full freight role, troop transport, VIP transport and to carry out emergency medical evacuations and non combatant evacuations from the world’s hotspots.

They can go further and faster than the C-130s, which means our troops, equipment and aid supplies can get to places such as Kabul, Dili, Honiara – or anywhere else they are needed – much faster and with more flexibility.

For example, a 757 could transport 160 of our troops for a rotation of the PRT in Afghanistan, and the next day could be reconfigured to carry 11 pallets of medical supplies and equipment to assist in an emergency such as occurred in Banda Aceh. This could normally require two C-130s.

The main modifications that have taken place include an upgrade to civil communication, navigation, and surveillance/air traffic management systems to meet future global air traffic control requirements, an improvement to engine thrust, and new military communications capabilities.

A cargo door has also been installed, internal access air stairs added, and the aircraft’s floors have been strengthened.

This investment, at $221 million, is part of a major upgrading and replacement of capital equipment through the Defence Long-Term Development Plan. The $3.3 billion invested in this area sits alongside a further $4.2 billion investment over 10 years in the Defence Sustainability Initiative, which among other things will fund a 12 percent growth in defence force numbers.

The reinvestment and rebuilding programme is spread across all three services, but it is especially evident across the Air Force where every platform is either being upgraded or replaced. There has been very good progress on Air Force projects over the past year.

As well as welcoming back the Boeing today and the progress on the Orion and Hercules aircraft, we have, as I mentioned, concluded contracts for the acquisition of the world class NH90 advanced medium utility helicopters and the A109 training and light utility helicopters.

Helicopters play a key role across all three services of the Defence Force. They are amongst the most useful and heavily utilised forms of equipment – having utility for deployment, counter terrorism, command and control, search and rescue and disaster relief. The NH90s and A109s will be a valuable addition to New Zealand.

We have also committed expenditure for essential infrastructure at Ohakea.
The reconstruction of Taxiway A and earthworks for the new NH90 helicopter hangar are almost completed, and funding has been committed for a new terminal and engineering workshop.

Like the rest of the NZDF, the Air Force faces the simultaneous challenges of bringing new equipment into service across many platforms while managing a busy operating schedule in the face of a changing strategic environment.

Instability and unrest has become a persistent feature of the Pacific region. Our defence response, which involves enhanced capabilities is part of a cooperative, whole-of-government effort.

Strategic airlift is a vital component of those capabilities, particularly in the Pacific. The 757s have already proven their utility during the 2006 riots in Tonga. The modifications to these aircraft will further improve that utility in tasks such as transport, disaster and humanitarian relief, carriage of NZDF or Pacific Island Country personnel to operations and to defence diplomacy activities.

The modified 757s will provide an enhanced strategic airlift capability that will enable whole-of-government responses in the tasks I have just mentioned as Defence works with partner agencies such as MFAT, NZAID and the Police.

I acknowledge the Project Teams and others who have managed the successful modification of this first of our 757s. RNZAF and Ministry staff have been professional in all their tasks. I wish the RNZAF well as they take the aircraft through its operational test and evaluation (OT&E) period and look forward to the arrival of the second of the 757s later this year.

Thank you for being here today to celebrate this occasion.


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