NZ Defence Force spends $1 billion on newer aircraft fleet

1:10 pm on 11 June 2019

The Defence Force will replace its five C-130H Hercules airplanes with a more modern aircraft, in a spend worth more than $1 billion.

Defence Minister Ron Mark

Defence Minister Ron Mark making the announcement today. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The Air Force's Hercules are now more than 50 years old - and replacing them is the top priority for the coalition government's Defence Capability Plan, which was released this morning and details more than $20 billion in planned spending.

The Hercules fleet has been used in operations throughout the Pacific, in the Middle East and in Antarctica.

But by 2023, a fleet of so-called Super Hercules planes will be in service, costing more than $1 billion.

Defence Minister Ron Mark said the new version of the Hercules was tried, tested and battle-hardened.

"It is used by key defence partners and carries a greater payload faster and further than the current fleet with no loss of ability to land where our current Hercules are required."

Mr Mark said the decision to replace the ageing planes was overdue, with maintenance costs rising sharply.

In his foreword to the plan, Mr Mark said the current planes were reaching the end of their service lives.

"Preserving these vital contributions through investment in modern, contemporary capabilities is the highest priority for delivering this plan."

Mr Mark said no final decisions, including the number of aircraft, had been made.

A RNZAF C-130 Hercules is delivering about 230 kgs of school supplies to PNG

A RNZAF C-130 Hercules plane delivering supplies to PNG. Photo: NZDF

The report states that the investment in new aircraft is planned for 2020.

It states the aircraft will be able to move personnel and cargo within the South Pacific, and to Antarctica. It will also support any coalition operations further afield.

Also set for the scrap heap are the army's fleet of armoured Pinzgauer vehicles.

Troops will be provided with "improved armoured, high-mobility and tactical transport options", according to the report.

The new vehicles will cost $300 - $600 million, and should be introduced into service by 2024.

Further down the line, the New Zealand Light Armoured Vehicle fleet will also be replaced, with investment planned for 2026.

Replacement vehicles will be in service by 2033, and would cost between $300 and $600 million.