New Zealand has outlined its defense acquisition priorities for the next decade, with new airlifters and maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) high on the agenda. There are various potential airlift contenders, and the Japanese have made an early showing for the MPA requirement by sending two Kawasaki P-1s belonging to the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) to the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th anniversary celebrations and an international naval exercise.
In the recentlyreleased Defence Capability Plan (DCP) that followed a White Paper earlier this year, the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has flagged the replacement of its airlifters starting in the early 2020s. The country currently operates five Lockheed-Martin C-130H Hercules and two Boeing 757s in the tactical and strategic airlift role, respectively, and a Future Air Mobility Capability project will consider options for replacing the both fleets.
The project will deliver a tactical airlift capability able to move personnel and cargo within the South Pacific, to Antarctica, and in support of coalition operations farther afield, according to the DCP. The document does not provide further details, but reports elsewhere have said that the NZDF is considering either two new aircraft or a single type able to meet essential requirements in both strategic and tactical airlift roles. The new airlifter(s) will start replacing the Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130Hs beginning in the early part of the next decade, with the 757s to be replaced by 2026.
Embraer has reportedly responded to a New Zealand RFI for its KC-390 and given the wide set of airlift capabilities New Zealand requires, it is almost certain other contenders such as the Airbus A400M and C-295, Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules and Leonardo C-27J Spartan will emerge.
Meanwhile, the RNZAF’s six Lockheed-Martin P-3K2 Orions are also due for a replacement in the mid-2020s as their airframe lives expire. They have been continually upgraded over their service lives, and will receive further upgrades to increase available satellite bandwidth and underwater threat detection capability by 2020. In addition to the traditional anti-submarine warfare mission, the new type should continue the Orion’s role in conducting air surveillance of New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone and maritime domain, respond to illegal, unregulated and unreported fisheries activity, and undertake search-and-rescue tasks.
Japan will offer the P-1, after recently easing constitutional restrictions on exports of military technology. During their visit to RNZAF base Whenuapai, the JMSDF P-1s also took part in overland damage-assessment missions following an earthquake that struck the Kaikoura region on November 14, working alongside RNZAF and U.S. Navy Orions.
Other possible contenders for the New Zealand maritime surveillance aircraft requirement are the Boeing’s P-8A Poseidon and Saab’s Swordfish.