18 Oktober 2017

New Government will Soon Decide on RNZAF C-130 Replacement

18 Oktober 2017


RNZAF C-130H Hercules (photo : Nathan Lang, images : NZHerald)

New government will have to make a call on Hercules replacement

An early job for the new government will be to make a call on what it wants from a replacement to New Zealand's ageing fleet of Hercules aircraft.

The 52-year-old aircraft are nearing the end of their operational life and although manufacturer Lockheed Martin says it is currently doing work for the New Zealand Defence Force on how many flying hours the five planes have left, the need for new planes is getting more pressing.

A detailed business case prepared by defence officials was due to go to Cabinet before the end of the year and the influence of New Zealand First deputy leader and defence spokesman Ron Mark could be pivotal in the next major acquisition project.

He has been a strident critic of much of the country's recent procurement of defence hardware.

Lockheed Martin is competing against military airlift newcomers Embraer from Brazil and Kawasaki from Japan, which are offering similar-sized planes that are powered by jet engines.

That means they are faster than the Hercules, although they are so far unproven in operation.

European aerospace conglomerate Airbus has the A400M in service and has actively promoted it in this country but it may be too big and too expensive for New Zealand's air mobility contract which will be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Lockheed is ''cautiously optimistic" about the chances of New Zealand replacing like with like.

While the new model Hercules C130J looks similar to the H model first developed in the 1950s it has had a complete overhaul of its avionics and is 25 per cent more powerful.

''It looks like a C130 on the outside but it doesn't perform like an old C130," said former US Air Force pilot Keith Gurnick, who now works for Lockheed Martin and has flown 6000 hours in the plane.

Antarctic operations are crucial to New Zealand and the new model "Super Hercules" has the ability to get to the McMurdo Sound, for crew to assess landing conditions while overhead and if they are too bad return safely to Christchurch. The older model planes' point of safe return was much earlier in flight.



Mike Kelley, Lockheed's senior director-South East Asia/Oceania business development said the Request for Information (RFI) process - where manufacturers are invited to make their initial pitch - started in 2013. The NZDF has asked them for more information several times since and a formal tender round was likely next year.

''The political situation may impact that but if they are able to put that business case up to Cabinet theoretically we could see a request for tender sometime in the second quarter of next year."

It was thought a deal could be signed the following year in order to meet the likely end of operational life deadline for the current Hercules fleet of 2022.

''It's going to be a competition - we're cautiously optimistic about our chances. We have a very good aircraft," said Kelley.

Transitioning to a later-model Hercules wouldn't need new hangar modifications and retraining pilots would be easier than if moving to a new aircraft, he said.

Like Embraer, Lockheed Martin is touting the ability of its new planes to fulfil maritime surveillance roles when the P3 Orions need replacing later next decade.

New Zealand has about $1 billion to spend on its air lifters and VIP fleet in the next decade as part of a big overhaul of military equipment.

(NZHerald)

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    Balasan
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