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Barker Defence Comments Wrong - Bradford

Labour defence spokesman Rick Barker’s endorsement of Opposition calls for a “niche” defence force, show how a Labour-led government would leave our service personnel exposed in times of danger, Defence Minister Max Bradford said today.

“Mr Barker wrongly says there is an imbalance in the composition of New Zealand’s force, yet it is Labour who would leave our troops without aircover and naval protection.

“From a Party whose leader has stated she will eventually remove the combat capabilities from our navy and air force, this sort of grandstanding when our Defence Force needs total support is a bit rich.

“Labour would send an oversized patrol boat full of troops and equipment into a dangerous area with no naval protection.

“Our frigates are providing naval combat protection for our and Australian peacekeepers in East Timor. Such protection will be needed in the future,” Mr Bradford said.

“Labour may complain to get headlines, but the simple fact is that this Government has stepped up to the plate and is funding a $663 million re-equipment of our armed forces.

“As I said in the House last week, all parties bear the historical shame of an under–resourced Defence Force.

“In the 1997 Defence Assessment, this Government committed to spending $663 million over five years to rebuild New Zealand’s defence capabilities.

“We confirmed the highest priority is to rebuild the Army’s capability and a $500 million re-equipment programme for the Army is underway,” Mr Bradford said.

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Armoured Vehicles: Government has given the go-ahead for tenders to be issued for 102 new Infantry Mobility Vehicles and Fire Support Vehicles.

Landrover Replacements (423 vehicles): The Government has approved the project in principle, the first 30 vehicles deploy with the peacekeepers to East Timor this week.

New Field radios For Our Soldiers: The order via the US Foreign Military Sales system has been placed and delivery will take a year.

Targeting and Night Vision Equipment: All now in service and to be used in East Timor.

Anti-aircraft Missiles For Our Soldiers: Tenders will be issued this year for the targeting system for the air defence missile system

Medium Range Anti-tank Weapon: Government has approved the project and expressions of interest are being sought.

Support Weapons: 24 heavy machine guns were introduced to service this year and will be used in East Timor if required.

Automatic Grenade Launchers: Tenders for the equipment will be issued this year.

Naval helicopters: Four SH-2G Kaman Seasprite naval helicopters are under construction and the Government has approved the purchase of a fifth helicopter.

HMNZS Charles Upham: Government has approved in principle the conversion of the vessel into a fully operational sealift ship and will accelerate plans to ensure the conversion work begins in 2001.

ANZAC Frigate Bridge Simulator: The Government approved the project and a contract is expected to be awarded shortly.

The Second ANZAC Frigate: HMNZS Te Mana is due to be delivered later this year.

F-16s: Government approved the lease of 28 American-built aircraft to replace our ageing Skyhawk fleet and the arrangement will save New Zealand $350 million compared with purchasing new aircraft next century.

Project Sirius: Tenders are currently being evaluated for the upgrade of the tactical systems of the P3K maritime patrol aircraft.

Project Kestrel: Work to re-wing two of our six P3K Orion maritime patrol aircraft is complete and work on a third is under way.

Project Delphi: The project for self-protection equipment (cockpit armour and missile warning systems) for the C-130 Hercules fleet should be complete before the end of the year.

C-130J Hercules: Government is exploring options to replace its fleet of five C-130H transport aircraft, possibly by leasing C-130Js or refurbishing the existing fleet.

“This shows a real commitment by Government to our defence personnel, not the vague promises or reductions that the Labour Party advocates,” Mr Bradford said.

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