Defence Force confident 'ageing' Hercules aircraft can cope with Europe deployment

11:44 am on 12 April 2022

Commander of Joint Forces Jim Gilmour says he's confident New Zealand's Hercules fleet will be up to the task as 50 Defence Force personnel deploy to Europe.

NZ Defence Force personnel boarding a Hercules plane.

NZ Defence Force personnel boarding a Hercules plane. File image Photo: Supplied / Ministry of Defence

New Zealand is sending 50 defence force personnel to Europe tomorrow to help distribute donated military aid for Ukraine.

A Hercules aircraft carrying intelligence personnel, logistics is set to depart New Zealand on Wednesday.

Commander Joint Forces Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour told Morning Report the deployment presented a low level threat to New Zealand's people.

He said an advance party which had been sent to the UK would convene with the latest deployment in Stuttgart, Germany - where the international effort is being coordinated.

Gilmour said the group would spend the week assessing the situation before hopefully travelling across Europe towards Ukraine early next week.

"None of our people will be entering Ukraine, we'll be moving capabilities to wherever they're required provided that it is safe for us to do so," he said.

Gilmour expected military aid would be delivered via main supply routes into Western Ukraine.

He said although the military's Hercules aircraft fleet is ageing, the bulk of the 50 military personnel travelling to Europe will be dedicated to supporting the aircraft.

"We've become used to being able to maintain them afar and we'll just deal with problems if the aircraft gives us any ... we always have our fingers crossed a little bit but I think I'm confident we'll be able to start providing support there next week."

He said military aircraft would remain available in New Zealand to respond to potential crises in the Pacific.

Joint forces commander Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour

Commander of Joint Forces Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour. Photo: Supplied / NZDF

Last week, former Defence Minister Ron Mark suggested New Zealand should send military LAVs (Light Armoured Vehicles) to bolster Ukraine's efforts in the war - a similar move to Australia's delivery of Bushmaster vehicles.

Gilmour said LAVs and other military resources were considered amongst a suite of response options provided to Cabinet.

"We provide options all the way from fairly light or low options in terms of personnel, advice or remote intelligence for example, all the way through to fairly extensive capabilities including our people.

"We don't expect that government will take those but our job is to make sure our advice is comprehensive and within that we have a suite of material options we could provide."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has previously suggested the military's low stock of sought after weapons, such as Javelin surface-to-air missiles, meant any contribution would make little difference to Ukraine's efforts.

However, Gilmour said all decisions on military spending were up to the government but admitted it made logistical sense to release funding to allow the purchase of Javelin missiles closer to the conflict in Ukraine.

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