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Cabinet Approves Upgrades To Fixed Wing Transport

Cabinet Approves Upgrades To Defence Fixed Wing Transport Fleet

Cabinet approves upgrades to Defence fixed wing transport fleet

New Zealand's Defence Force fixed wing transport fleet is to undergo a major transformation.

In an announcement made today, Defence Minister Mark Burton outlined Cabinet's decision to undertake a major upgrade of New Zealand's five C-130Hs, as well as the replacement of both of the NZDF's 727s with 757-200 jet aircraft.

"New Zealand needs a strong air transport fleet to perform a wide variety of necessary strategic and tactical airlift tasks, either for the NZDF or in conjunction with other agencies. Such tasks include peace support operations, emergency medical evacuations, disaster and humanitarian relief, military exercises, VIP transport, Antarctic supply flights, and search and rescue, among many others.

"This level of tasking means that the NZDF air transport fleet must meet a diverse range of both military and civilian requirements. Discussions to define these requirements were held with a wide cross-section of government agencies, including Immigration, Police, Customs, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, and the Maritime Safety Authority, among others.

"The publication of the Defence Long Term Development Plan (LTDP) in June 2002 outlined this Government's commitment to achieving the goal of a strong, multi-faceted air transport fleet, capable of meeting these requirements."

"In October 2001, we commissioned a Life-of-Type Study on the RNZAF's C-130s, in order to determine whether our best option was to refurbish our existing fleet or to purchase or lease new aircraft.

"The results of this recently completed study clearly conclude that our best course of action is to give our C130 fleet a 15-year structural life extension, a task which can be achieved within the estimates outlined in the LTDP.

"In tandem with these structural upgrades, work will also commence on upgrading the C-130s' communications and navigation systems.

"By investing in upgrades to our current fleet of C-130's, we can expect a 15 year life extension for a fleet of aircraft which have already proven themselves to be exceptionally capable. "Our 727's will be replaced by two 757 jet aircraft, modified for dual cargo and passenger carrying capacity. Alterations will include a freight door in the main cabin and strengthened floor modification, which will allow access to the cabin interior. This will ensure that the planes meet the NZDF's operational requirement to carry both passengers and commercial cargo pallets.

"The NZDF's recent experiences in East Timor proved the need for a sustainable strategic transport capacity for stores, equipment, and personnel. This role is essential for successful NZDF missions both at home and overseas. The purchase of two cargo-capable jets to replace our 727s will ensure that we have reliable aircraft to perform these tasks."

Mark Burton is pleased by both decisions, describing them as "both fiscally prudent and eminently practical.

"Our goal is to build a modern, focused, well-equipped Defence Force, and building a strong air transport fleet is crucial to achieving this.

"I know these decisions will be welcomed by both the RNZAF and the NZDF as a whole." Questions and answers on the replacement of the Boeing 727 and upgrade of the C-130H.

Replacing the Boeing 727 with two cargo-capable Boeing 757s

Q. Why the Boeing 757?

A. Analysis by Defence has concluded that the Boeing 757 is the model that best meets New Zealand's requirements for local, regional, and global operations. This conclusion was validated by two independent consultants. They will need to be modified to a cargo-capable configuration to meet all New Zealand's requirements.

Q. Why not upgrade the Boeing 727s?

A. The two Boeing 727s are reaching the end of their useful life and an upgrade would not be cost effective because of the age of the airframe and systems, a high maintenance burden, engines that are non-compliant with civil aviation requirements, and a number of operational restrictions such as limited range and payload.

Q. Why replace them now?

A. The availability and reliability of the 727s has reduced significantly in recent years and New Zealand needs new aircraft. It is important to make a decision on this issue at the same time as a decision on the upgrade/replacement of the C-130H Hercules because of the linkages between the two capabilities.

Q. What will happen to the 727s?

A. The Boeing 727 aircraft will be offered for sale.

Q. Why a cargo capability for the 757s?

A. A cargo capability is required for the aircraft to perform a wide variety of tasks, both civilian and military. The planes are used for such varied roles as peace support operations, emergency medical evacuations, disaster and humanitarian relief, military exercises, VIP transport, Antarctic supply flights, and search and rescue. Cargo capability will allow the 757s to do the same job as the 727s and will also help to relieve the burden on the C-130, which has recently been doing a number of primarily strategic airlift tasks.

Q. Why buy and not lease?

A. Leasing has some important operational restrictions which cannot be overcome at this time and would prevent the aircraft from being used to their full capacity.

Q. When will the 757s be in operation?

A. Defence is working towards a mid-2003 date for entry into service. The cargo-carrying modifications will be completed in 2004.

Q. What modifications will be carried out?

A. To be modified to a combination freight/passenger capability the aircraft will have a cargo door installed, their floors strengthened, and other structural modifications.

Q. What work will be done in New Zealand?

A. The level of New Zealand work is unknown and will be evaluated as part of the tender process for these modifications.

Q. What will the aircraft be used for?

A. The 757s will be used for strategic airlift tasks, including the transport of freight and passengers in support of the Government's defence policy objectives. The planes also meet the requirements of a wide-cross section of government agencies, including Immigration, Police, Customs, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, and the Maritime Safety Authority, among others. The planes are used for a variety of tasks, both civilian and military (see Why a cargo capability for the 757s? above)

Q. Who will fly them?

A. The aircraft will be crewed and supported by the RNZAF.

Q. What will they cost?

A. The exact cost is a matter of commercial sensitivity. However, the cost is expected to be within the estimates published in the Defence Long Term Development Plan.

The upgrade of the C-130H Hercules

Q. Why upgrade the C-130H?

A. Defence commissioned an independent contractor to conduct a Life-of-Type Study (LOTS) on the feasibility and cost of upgrading the C-130H fleet to extend its service life and improve availability and reliability. The LOTS concluded that a 15-year life extension was feasible, for a reasonable cost, and would significantly improve the availability and reliability of the fleet.

Q. What will happen to the option to purchase C-130 'J' model aircraft?

A. New Zealand has the option to purchase new C-130J aircraft as part of a contract that Australia has with the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin. New Zealand will be declining that option. Five replacement aircraft would cost over $1 billion. They are a new aircraft and have a number of recognised operational shortfalls. They are not an appropriate investment at this time, given that upgrading the current C-130H fleet is both feasible and affordable.

Q. How long will the upgrade work take?

A. Depending on the work programme undertaken as each aircraft is taken out of service, the entire programme will take 2.5 to 4 years and will start in 2004, following the completion of the cargo capability modifications to the two 757s.

Q. Why will it take so long?

A. Each aircraft requires significant structural work and the replacement of outdated systems.

Q. What will be the implications of having aircraft out of service?

A. There may be some limitations on the deployment of C-130H aircraft for overseas operations during the upgrade period. This impact will be reduced by the availability of the modified 757s.

Q. How much will the upgrade cost?

A. The total cost is considered commercially sensitive. However, the project, including both structural and system upgrades, is expected to be within estimates published in the Defence Long Term Development Plan.

Q. How much of the work will be done in New Zealand?

A. The level of New Zealand work is unknown and will be evaluated as part of the tender process.

Q. What will replace the C-130H at the end of the lift extension period?

A. By that time there will be a number of different aircraft that might be suitable. New Zealand will assess these against its requirements before that time.

Q. Will the upgraded aircraft be more reliable?

A. Yes. The purpose of the upgrade is to extend the life of the aircraft and increase the reliability and availability of the fleet for the life extension period, as well as improve and modernise the C-130s communications and navigation systems.

Q. What is Australia planning to do with the option to purchase the C-130J?

A. Australia already has twelve C-130J aircraft. Whether Australia will purchase additional aircraft is up to the Australian government.

Q. What will this mean for the Government's defence policy objectives?

A. As a result of the decisions on both the Boeing 727 replacement and the C-130H upgrade, New Zealand will have a more capable, available, and reliable fleet of air transport aircraft, able to undertake a variety of defence policy tasks locally, regionally, and globally, and also able to support many other government agencies that rely on these aircraft for the specialist tasks they can perform.


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