16 Jun 2010

Calls to reinstate air force strike wing

8:58 am on 16 June 2010

A senior defence academic is backing pleas to reinstate New Zealand's air combat capability.

The Associate Minister of Defence, Heather Roy, on Friday released a summary of submissions to a Government review of the defence forces, which began last year.

Of more than 600 submissions, 175 ask for the reinstatement of the RNZAF's air strike capability, which was scrapped by the former Labour government.

But Ms Roy says that would be difficult to achieve: "There is this romantic idea I suppose that it's a great thing to have. Given that they are no longer flying it's much harder to reinstate that."

She says the real challenge in the defence review is funding.

The Air Force Skyhawk jets were mothballed by the previous government in 2001. Their sale is still pending.

A senior lecturer from the Military Studies Institute, Lance Beath, says the decision was poorly thought out.

Dr Beath says the economic returns from the development of maritime resources could help fund a new combat wing.

Navy's newest ship docks in Auckland

Ms Roy unveiled the results of submissions on the review on board the Navy's newest ship, the offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington.

The ship docked in Devonport on Friday morning, marking the completion of the $500 million Project Protector fleet, following years of delays.

The full fleet of seven ships was supposed to be operational by 2007 and Wellington's own arrival was delayed for several days after it developed engine trouble.

The Navy's Maritime Component Commander, Commodore Ross Smith, says the full complement of ships will strengthen the force.

He says they give capacity that other, less appropriate ships could not.