RNZAF's A109 Light Utility Helicopter (photo : RNZAF)
The New Zealand government is planning to purchase three more A109 light helicopters, on top of the five already ordered, it has been revealed.
In the Defence White Paper 2010, released on 2 November, ministers also say they are planning a review into whether it will be more cost-effective to upgrade or replace the naval Seasprite helicopters in 2015 when they are due for an upgrade.
Announcing the white paper, Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said: ‘The NZDF [New Zealand Defence Force] must to be able to effectively meet the security challenges of the region.’ He also highlighted the importance of reprioritising funds, saying, ‘we have to use our resources more effectively’.
The white paper states that the planned additions will ‘maximise the utility of the relatively inexpensive’ aircraft.
The AgustaWestland A109 Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) was chosen by the NZDF for pilot training (for the navy Seasprites and the air force’s NH90s), as well as for minor task work, such as the transportation of small groups and light loads. The contract for five A109 LUHs to replace the elderly Sioux helicopter was signed with AgustaWestland in May 2008.
The paper also states that the planned NH90s and A109s will be introduced into air force service over the next two years. The aircraft will be used to support New Zealand’s land forces.
Mapp said that it is important for the country to have ‘new and upgraded capabilities’, but this will come at an increased cost of $900 million for helicopters alone.
This is the most costly in comparison to the $500 million on ships, and $600 million on upgrades of Hercules and Orion aircraft.
The defence minister concluded that the policy statement ‘marks the start of a new era’, in which the next 20 years will mark progressive changes in New Zealand’s defence.