The New Zealand government has confirmed plans to buy five Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Super Hercules transport aircraft for NZ$1.52 billion ($990.6 million).
“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,” Defense Minister Ron Mark announced today.
In addition, the government also approved $21 million to upgrade systems in the Air Force NH90 helicopters to comply with regulatory and operational requirements. “This investment, building on the first tranche announced last year, will ensure that the New Zealand Defense Force’s aircraft are fitted with updated communication, navigation, air traffic management and identification systems,” Ron Mark said.
Along with the new fleet, the mega C-130 project will deliver a full mission flight simulator and other supporting infrastructure. 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.
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 satellite communications system will allow imagery, video and data to be streamed in real time, and the camera allows for aerial surveillance, including at the same time as the aircraft is undertaking transport tasks, useful for humanitarian and disaster relief operations and search and rescue missions.
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.
Work is expected to be initiated in 2021 on the second phase of upgrading New Zealand’s air mobility capability, when options will be considered for replacing the two Boeing 757 aircraft operated by the Royal New Zealand Air Force. These are expected to reach their end of service life towards the end of this decade.