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New Zealand confirms $1.4bn purchase of C-130J Super Hercules aircraft

RNZAF Hercules
The Royal New Zealand Air Force's C-130H(NZ) Hercules fleet is scheduled for replacement in 2023/24. Photo: RNZ Air Force

The New Zealand government has confirmed the acquisition of five Lockheed Martin-built C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft.

The new aircraft are replacing the country’s Hercules fleet which has been in service since the 1960s. The contract confirmation comes after the government first announced the possible procurement in June 2019. The acquisition was cleared by the US State Department in November last year.

“Last year, cabinet selected these aircraft as the preferred option to replace the current Hercules fleet. Procurement of the Super Hercules has been my highest capability priority as minister of defense,” New Zealand defense minister Ron Mark said.

“Along with the new fleet, the $1.521 billion project will deliver a full mission flight simulator and other supporting infrastructure.

“This decision ensures tactical airlift will remain available to undertake operations in New Zealand’s immediate region, as well as support our interests in Antarctica, often in support of other government agencies. The new aircraft will carry a greater payload, is faster and can travel further than the current Hercules aircraft.”

Each aircraft will also be fitted with additional specialist capabilities, including a wide bandwidth, high speed satellite communications system and an electro-optical/infra-red camera, the defense minister added.

The aircraft and simulator are being acquired through the United States’ Foreign Military Sales process as part of a package that includes aircrew and maintainer training.

“As with our decision to acquire the P-8A Poseidon fleet through the Foreign Military Sales process, this has reduced costs and allows collaboration with other nations on developments and system upgrades that will be necessary over the life of the aircraft,” Ron Mark said.

“The first of the new Hercules will be delivered in 2024, with the full fleet operating from 2025, allowing for a phased retirement of the current fleet.

In addition, the government has also approved NZ$21 million to upgrade systems in the Air Force NH90 helicopters to comply with regulatory and operational requirements.

“The upgrade of the NH90 will be undertaken in cooperation with a number of other nations who operate these helicopters including Australia, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Italy, France, and Norway,” Ron Mark said.

“This will provide us with an opportunity to share development costs amongst all participating nations, which means this approach is less expensive and risky than pursuing a bespoke solution.”