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Leaked Information On Cost Of Orion Upgrade

News release
30 April 2000

LEAKED INFORMATION SHOWS ORION UPGRADE SHOULD NOT PROCEED

The defence research group JUST DEFENCE has released parts of a confidential briefing made to the Minister of Defence on 9 March 2000 that reveal the price of the next expensive purchase being sought by the Air Force. The information, which was leaked to the group, shows that the Air Force is seeking $445 million for new electronics for the six Orion aircraft. The price has more than doubled since only two years ago when Defence used the figure of $210 million to obtain approval in principle from the previous govrnment.

Spokesperson Kevin Hackwell said that the Orion upgrade was like the F-16s issue all over again. "New Orion equipment is a left-over from the National Government's defence policies. It is ridiculously expensive, unnecessary for New Zealand's needs and didn't even rate a mention in last year's multi-party defence report, Defence Beyond 2000, which has become Labour's basic policy document. Yet Defence is still trying it on."

The papers show that the US arms manufacturer Raytheon submitted a "best and final offer" for the Orion contract in January this year. Its price is $445 million. JUST DEFENCE was told that the offer expires at the end of May.

"$445 million is an enormous amount of money - more than the government expects to raise in total from this year's tax rises for the wealthy. When the government is saying there's not enough money for essential social services and reducing poverty, there is no justification for putting low priority military spending first."

"Defence is selling this project as being mainly about improving fisheries protection and search and rescue work. But this very high tech equipment is not designed for search and rescue and catching illegal fishing boats in our EEZ; it is for the Cold War roles of hunting submarines and allied warfighting elsewhere in the world."

"The sad irony is that, just like New Zealand's jet fighters, in over 30 years since the Orions were purchased they have never been used for the high tech warfighting that this new equipment is designed to do. That leaves them over-equipped and over-expensive for the real jobs they do."

"JUST DEFENCE is preparing an alternative plan for how New Zealand can do maritime surveillance and fisheries protection in our region more effectively and at much less cost than the Air Force's $445 million plan." "We are disappointed that Defence has been refusing to release information on the Orion proposal. Clearly they are trying to slip through the project without independent scrutiny. They should not use "security" or "commercial sensitivity" to stifle rational debate."

JUST DEFENCE was formed in 1985 to argue for a New Zealand-oriented defence policy: just for defence and contributing to just resolution of disputes. It opposes training and equipping our military to act primarily as a component of allied forces.

Contact: Kevin Hackwell, ph 04 3894815

NB The briefing papers have been altered to hide their source, but the information is unchanged. Defence minister Mark Burton earlier released a copy of the briefing with the figures removed.


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