Forces: February 10, 2002


New Zealand Air Force:

#3 Sqdn14 - UH1H Hueys

#5 Sqdn6 - P3K Orions

#40 Sqdn5 C130H Hercules
2 Boeing 727 VIP Transports

#42 Sqdn3 King Airs (used primarily as trainers)

Issues: The biggest issue facing the Air Force is the recent disbanding of the Air Combat Force. These squadrons, (#2, 14 and 75 Sqdns) were equipped with aging A4K Skyhawks and Aermacchi MB-339 trainers. Under the previous Nationalist Government, the Air Force had made arrangements to replace the aging Skyhawks with F-16As purchased from the US. The current government (a Labor-Greens coalition) stopped the purchase claiming it was too expensive (about US$300m). Currently the government is battling a lawsuit by the Save Our Squadrons organization that is trying to force the restoration of the Air Combat Force. SOS claims that the Defence Ministrys decision to scrap the Air Combat Force was unconstitutional, and should have been made an issue in Parliament.

The P3K Orions were scheduled to undergo an upgrade called Project Sirius that would have brought them up to current P3C standard. The government has canceled the project (which would have cost about US$255m) and will upgrade the surface surveillance systems only. The option of adding an air-to-surface missile capability to the Orions is being investigated, but no decision has been made.

The yearly support costs for the Air Force were US$39m last year, with US$4.5m being provided by Australia. Australia paid the cost for #2 Sqdn (A4Ks and TA4Ks) to be based there and to train with and provide additional air support for the Australian Navy. -- Chuck Wohlrab 




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