Orion Report Shows Defence Is Misleading Public
Media Release Sunday 23 July 2000
ORION REPORT SHOWS DEFENCE IS MISLEADING PUBLIC
A report released today by researcher Nicky Hager shows that defence has been presenting deliberately misleading information to try to win government approval for new combat equipment for the Air Force's Orions. The report presents proof that the "Project Sirius" equipment, which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, is not intended for use around New Zealand's EEZ and the South Pacific. Rather, it is specifically designed for coalition wars like the Gulf War far from New Zealand.
The report, which is based on internal defence documents and information from overseas military suppliers, has been released now as a government decision is due on Project Sirius in August. The report has been sent to Ministers, MPs, officials and others with an interest in defence to provide alternative advice to that coming from Defence.
"The decision on Sirius will test whether the Government is prepared to adopt a new defence policy focussed on New Zealand priorities as it has promised", Nicky Hager said. "The Sirius equipment is very like the F-16s. It is not needed for New Zealand and would only be being bought to please the Australian and the US defence forces."
He said that Defence, sensitive to criticism of Sirius, had prepared a reduced-price option in the hope of still winning government approval. "The reduced price Sirius option is essentially a bureaucratic trick, as it involves the same inappropriate equipment system but with some components left off to be bought at a later date. It is still criminally expensive. It is like the proposal earlier this year to buy 12 F-16s instead of 24 when we did not need any at all."
Mr Hager said that he hopes the Government, armed with the facts, will stand up to Defence and not proceed with the project. "Government policy is to give priority to surveillance of the New Zealand and South Pacific EEZs. Defence officials hope these words will persuade Ministers to back Sirius, but Sirius is in fact designed for war fighting far from the South Pacific. The Government needs to go back to the drawing board if it doesn't want its policy subverted."
The report contains the first public information on the precise equipment sought by the Air Force. "This is state-of-the-art combat equipment that is designed for the Orions to be part of a Gulf-War type conflict. This is what the Defence papers explicitly say. In contrast, the internal defence papers dismiss EEZ protection as being merely a "complementary civilian task" for the Orions. It is not a priority activity for Defence."
"Each Orion spends less than two hours a week on EEZ protection because most of their time is spent practicing for maritime warfare and submarine hunting. The joke is that in 30 years the Orions, like the Skyhawks, have never once been involved in a conflict or helped in peacekeeping."
Contact: Nicky Hager 04 3845074 until Monday night.