An announcement for the replacement of the RNZAF’s aged Hercules fleet is close and the chosen candidate is likely to be identified either in the Budget or the coming Defence Capability Plan.
Boeing has made a late attempt to offer the Brazilian Embraer KC390 twin turbofan tactical airlifter, having taken a commercial interest in the project as part of a longer-term plan to develop Embraer’s smaller short-haul airliners.
The C-130J has a crew of only three: two pilots and a loadmaster, but no flight engineer and no navigator. It will also bring inter-operability advantages in terms of training and spares given the large numbers in service with the US and the RAAF.
Timing of the order is sensitive in that the RNZAF’s new fleet of Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft is due in 2022. The C-130J may arrive earlier to avoid over-taxing the small air force with new types at once.
While the Hercules have had a major upgrade the engines, propellors and some mechanical systems remain the same and parts for these are becoming increasingly expensive and difficult to access.
Whereas Point of Order has been looking into the Hercules replacement, National is claiming to have been given insights into the Government’s defence spending intentions.
According to a Stuff report, National has claimed it is the recipient of a massive Budget leak, detailing the spending promises the Opposition understands Labour has made to NZ First.
Among the biggest apparent gains for NZ First’s minister’s is $1.3 billion for defence assets, and the doubling of “Vote Forestry” – the total budget for nearly all forestry initiatives being funded by the Government. NZ First ministers Ron Mark and Shane Jones hold both portfolios respectively.
But it’s unlikely National’s claims will be proven either way, until Thursday’s Budget is revealed. In relation to a potential defence spend, that document is released separately to the Budget itself, although that’s widely expected to be released mid-June.
Spending of of $1.3 billion for the purchase of assets in Vote Defence Force in 2019/2020, would be up from $641 million last year.
The PM has said the Nats are free to speculate.