Test for Ron Mark will be getting Cabinet approval for Poseidon purchase

Cabinet is close to a decision on new maritime patrol aircraft to replace the RNZAF’s 60-year-old Orions.  The NZDF has settled on the P-8 Poseidon, based on the Boeing 737 and flown by key allies, the US Navy, RAAF and shortly Britain’s RAF. Norway has also ordered it to replace its Orions.  The list price is about $US1.4bn for four, although this is expected to fall.

There have been reservations about the Poseidon’s ability to operate at low level as much of the Orions’ tasks include search and rescue in the Pacific. However recent P-8 tests in the maritime patrol exercise area north east of Auckland demonstrated its manoeuvrability at 3000ft and below.

NZ’s vast EEZ and search and rescue areas require a long range and this apparently ruled out a late contender, the Dassault Atlantique 3 flown by the French and German navies.  There were uncertainties about the Kawasaki P-1 and various versions of the ATR72 flown by Air NZ and the Casa 295 transports could not meet the range specification. Defence Minister Ron Mark expects a decision by the end of July.

Given   the nature  of  the   coalition  government where   many  within  Labour  see   social  spending   as a  much higher priority  than  outlays on  defence  equipment, it  will be  a real test  of   Mark’s political  skills  to   gain Cabinet   approval.  He  will however have the strong backing  of   his leader,  Winston Peters,  who in his  role  as  Foreign  Affairs  Minister has  shown a clear  understanding of   NZ’s  role in the  Pacific, and the importance of the maritime   surveillance   provided  by the  RNZAF’s  Orions.

During a Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee hearing earlier this month, Mark said he had to start “from scratch” on the procurement plan, when he took on the job as minister, last year.  In fact  the  previous  National  government had been working  on the  Orion  replacement  and  expected to make a decision by the end of  March  to  take advantage of  a a deal  from the manufacturers.

While the former National government had started the process, Mark argued there was nothing to suggest there had been a paper taken either to a cabinet committee or the Cabinet, and he would not endorse a recommendation, without understanding the decision-making process.

I am confident now that the recommendation I will take to Cabinet committee stacks up, it is robust, it’s justifiable and I’m in the stage where I am consulting with people.  So my closing comment, not being able to pre-judge what the Cabinet committee or Cabinet might decide, because that is for me to put the case down, I would simply say, put your cellphones in flight mode, put your tray up, buckle in, hold on, it’s coming.

In the briefing to the incoming minister, the NZDF and the Ministry of Defence said  the fleet of six P-3K2 Orions had undertaken military deployments and contributed to stewardship of NZ’s maritime area of responsibility for the past 60 years.

“The aircraft and their sensors have been upgraded several times but they are now beyond further upgrades.

Mark  says he has also reviewed the 2016 Defence White Paper and a Defence Policy Statement would be produced early next month.

3 thoughts on “Test for Ron Mark will be getting Cabinet approval for Poseidon purchase

  1. It’s a good decision and one well overdue. All it will prove is that NZ First are in control. Ron Mark is making it sound like he has to be at his best – the reality is he would not be strutting around talking up the nonproblems and deficiencies he has had to overcome in short order, if he didn’t have the nod of the of the bloke with the veto power – who also happens to be the Acting PM and Chair of the Cabinet when these decisions will come forward.

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  2. The PM (unelected) and the acting PM (unelected) have possibly organised a few Yaks from their Russian friends!

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  3. He only has to convince Winston. When questioned by RNZ or The Spinoff about why nurses, teachers and the IRD aren’t all getting 16% pay rises when the Air Force gets over $1b on jets Grant and Jacinda will smile with gritted teeth while mumbling something about “that’s MMP” or “we finally have a true coalition, FINALLY!” while trying not to look Winston in the eye.

    As for my personal opinion, I just want to see it proving it’s ability below 3,000ft at Wanaka and I will consider it money well spent!

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