The coalition Government has agreed to purchase four Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft from the United States Government.
The four aircraft will replace the aging six P-3K2 Orion maritime patrol aircraft that have been operated by the Royal New Zealand Air Force since the 1960s. The current Orion fleet will reach the end of their expected operational life in 2025.
“The purchase ensures the Defence Force can continue to deliver the country’s maritime surveillance, resource protection, humanitarian and disaster response around New Zealand and across the South Pacific,” says Ron Mark.
“This decision strengthens the coalition Government’s Pacific Reset by providing a maritime patrol capability with the significant range and endurance needed to assist our partners in the region.
“The purchase enables New Zealand to continue to deploy in a wide range of airborne maritime situations independently, and when required, work effectively with partners including Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which all operate, or will operate, the aircraft,” says Ron Mark.
The role of maritime patrol aircraft includes:
• Supporting maritime surveillance, humanitarian aid and disaster response, and resource protection around NZ and in the South Pacific;
• Contributing to the international rules based order through participation in global peace and security operations;
- Search and rescue in New Zealand’s region, which stretches from the South Pole almost to the Equator and covers 1/11th of the earth’s surface;
- Environmental and marine resource monitoring.
“One example of the requirement for a fully capable maritime patrol aircraft is simply the number of lives that can be saved,” Mr Mark said.
“In the last seven years of search and rescue operations in our region, Orion maritime patrols have contributed to saving 119 lives.
“Other tasks the Orions have undertaken recently have included participation in international operations to counter piracy and illicit smuggling off the Horn of Africa, surveillance of the volcano in Vanuatu, assessing damage from Cyclones Winston and Gita in the Pacific, surveillance of critical infrastructure after the Kaikoura earthquake, and fisheries monitoring.
“Maintaining a maritime patrol capability is essential for New Zealand’s national security, and for our ability to contribute to global security efforts,” says Ron Mark.
The new P-8As, training systems, infrastructure and introduction into service costs will total $2.346 billion. They will be delivered and begin operations from 2023.
The capital cost will be spread over a number of financial years out to 2025/26. This is an investment decision that has fallen on this Government to make, but will be spread over the medium term and will deliver for New Zealand for many decades to come. The P-8A was the most cost-effective maritime patrol aircraft option available.
No. 5 Squadron, which currently operates the Orions, will shift from Whenuapai to Ohakea air force base to operate the P-8As.
The Government will also consider options for a complementary maritime surveillance capability during the forthcoming Defence Capability Plan review, due to be completed by the end of 2018.
“The complementary capability will consider smaller manned aircraft, remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) or satellites, for additional maritime surveillance tasks within New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone and near region. This will free up the new P-8A fleet to fly more missions, in the South Pacific and further afield,” says Ron Mark.