Cablegate: New Zealand Assesses Viability of New Aircraft

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: National Science Foundation (NSF),
Raytheon, and Embassy representatives attended a logistics
planning briefing hosted by the NZ Defence Force (NZDF)
October 14 to assess the viability of allowing Royal NZ Air
Force P-3K Orion and Boeing 757 aircraft to use the landing
areas at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. The use of ice runways
at McMurdo Station by NZDF P3Ks would significantly increase
the surveillance area under the GoNZ's Operation Mawsoni,
which supports the inspection regime of the Commission for
the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources
(CCAMLR) by locating vessels conducting illegal and
unregulated fishing (IUU.) The Boeing 757s would be used to
offset U.S. C-130 personnel and cargo flights. While the
projects present logistic challenges, both are viable, and
could be underway by the 2006 Antarctic summer season. As of
yet, neither project has been officially presented to members
of the NZ Government. The reps from NSF and Raytheon (who
provide logistical services for USG operations in Antarctica)
agreed at the meeting to look into housing and other
logistical requirements for the proposed projects.
Powerpoint presentations have been e-mailed to EAP/ANP and
OES/OA. End summary.

CCAMLR Surveillance

2. (U) Trevor Hughes, Antarctica Policy Unit, Ministry of
Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) outlined the current status
of Operation MAWSONI, including the policy and legal aspects.
Hughes pointed out that even a single P3K flight with
increased surveillance coverage could significantly deter IUU
fishing boats. In concert with MFAT,s Legal Representative,
Hughes did not foresee any legal problems raised by allowing
P3K Orion flights into Antarctica. Hughes noted that under
Article 1.2 of the Antarctic Treaty, which states that the
continent can be used "for scientific research, or any other
peaceful purpose," use of the P3Ks would be allowed, but the
GoNZ would have to provide prior notification of their use to
all Antarctic Treaty nations. He confirmed that the use of
the aircraft has no military purpose, and is not related to
NZ's territorial claim in Antarctica.

Can A P-3K Orion Land At McMurdo?

3. (SBU) Group Captain Short presented the NZDF's initial
assessment of how operating P3K flights from McMurdo would
specifically increase surveillance of the CCAMLR area,
including patrol area scope and increased time on the ice.
The flights could triple the area of the Ross Sea under
surveillance, and a 5-day run in and out of McMurdo could
produce 24 hours of patrol, versus the current 2 hours using
Christchurch as the return point. (NB: This would comprise 3
6-hour patrols and 6 hours to deploy and redeploy.)

4. (SBU) Short noted that overall, the P3K Orion could
operate under Antarctic conditions. The aircraft is suitable
to temperatures as low as )40 degrees Celsius, and the ice
runway is long enough to accommodate the P3K's 4,600 foot
take-off length. Short highlighted potential concerns,
noting especially that because of the P3K's low wing design,
exhaust efflux could melt the runway during takeoff.

5. (SBU) Short also said that the availability of ice
survival training may limit available personnel, as only
10-15 aircrew are trained annually. However, he appeared
optimistic that with the creation of standard operating
procedures (SOPs) for ice flights and the crews, increasing
familiarity with polar flying and McMurdo's facilities, there
would be a progressive build-up of capabilities.


6. (SBU) Barring hiccups, the NZDF could achieve full PK3
operations by the 2006 Antarctic Season. Short noted that
NZ's continued commitment to the Global War on Terror (GWOT)
decreased available resources, as did planned upgrades to
military aircraft. For now, the NZDF is planning to develop
SOPs for Antarctic missions by July 2005. This season, they
will send two maintenance personnel to the Ice for
familiarization, and to conduct an exhaust efflux trial.

The Boeing 757

7. (SBU) Group Captain Short also presented a summary of the
requirements for landing Boeing 757 (B757) aircraft on the
ice runway, which appear to be more problematic, although
overall policies and procedures would mirror those for the
C-130 flights. The largest obstacle is that the planes would
need a new Navigational fit-out, as they do not possess
TACAN, have no radar, and no GPS. There is no "GRID"
navigation system available. Another concern is that special
equipment may be needed to load and offload cargo, as the
hold is 13 ft off the ground. The airfield was deemed
suitable, with sufficient length to account for any problems.

8. (SBU) The proposed B757 flights would be able to handle
110 passengers each carrying 76 pounds (approx. 16,000 kgs.)
Short noted that the point of no return in flying to the Ice
was 80-110 minutes from McMurdo. Short then pointed out that
there were a number of procedures and concerns that had not
been examined in detail, including maintenance procedures for
the aircraft, risk analysis for the flights, the feasibility
of holding spare parts on the Ice, etc. These would be
addressed dependent on whether or not the project receives
approval from the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs
and Trade, neither of which have been briefed at this time.


9. (SBU) Short indicated that the NZDF hopes to have draft
policies by October 2005, and that operations would be
possible by late 2006. This program would be an NZDF
priority decision, but not before 2006.

Issues for the USG to Consider

10. (SBU) During the course of the meeting, issues that
would need to be addressed by the NSF and other USG agencies
were raised. Representatives from NSF and Raytheon offered
to examine each of these, and to keep their GoNZ counterparts
apprised of developments. Concerns included:
- Housing of crew and maintenance staff.
- Transport to and from Pegasus.
- Ground handling support and equipment to access the B757
cargo hold (at 13 ft. high)
- Housing and shipping of fuel and other spare parts.

(This list is incomplete)
11. (U) U.S
Art Brown, National Science Foundation (NSF)
Michael Hush, Logistics Manager for McMurdo, Raytheon Corp
Katherine Hadda, Political/Economic Counselor
Dorothy Rogers, Political Officer
Warrant Officer Michelle Barkwell, DAO

New Zealand
Trevor Hughes, MFAT Antarctic Policy Unit
Alice Revell, MFAT Antarctic Policy Unit
Rosemary Paterson, MFAT Legal Division
Brigadier General Clive Lilley, NZDF
Air Commander Graham Lintott, NZDF
Graeme Briggs, NZDF Antarctic Liaison
Group Captain Short
Julian Tangere, Antarctica NZ

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