Bell promotes its UH-1Y as a chopper to replace RNZN’s Seasprite

Might the trusty Bell Iroquois return to service in the NZ Defence Force? Bell Helicopters thinks it might – as a replacement for the RNZN’s Kaman Seasprites serving aboard the frigates.

Bell is to offer its latest “Huey”, the UH-1Y, but it is a very different beast from the Iroquois which spent 49 years in hard service with the RNZAF between 1966 and 2015.

Currently in service with the US Marines, it remains in production but represents a major advance with two General Electric T700 engines as opposed to one in the original Iroquois, a glass cockpit, modern fuselage construction and composite rotor blades much resistant to damage and deterioration.

Bell says the new model is completely “marinized” during construction, preparing it for operations at sea. The rotors can be folded within minutes for storage aboard ships. A special bracket is used to secure the blades in place in high winds.  It can carry a range of weapons and missiles.

With sales already concluded with Bahrain and the Czech Republic, Bell identifies Asia-Pacific as a potential market with opportunities in South Korea, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand. It also believes that the UH-1Y is suitable to replace the Seasprites due for retirement in the mid-decade.

Time for a new airport on the North Shore?

Air NZ CEO Chris Luxon raised Defence hackles with his proposal to use the RNZAF base Whenuapai for commercial services. The air force has long resisted this for reasons of security, safety and the absence of land for passenger terminals and parking.

Cynics reckon this is an opening salvo from Luxon who seems headed to Parliament sooner rather than later. Sometimes the airline thinks it is the only business in town.

Continue reading “Time for a new airport on the North Shore?”

Lest we forget

On   September 3, at 9.30pm 80 years ago, New Zealand declared war on Germany. International tensions had steadily risen from mid-year as Germany became more bellicose. On August 24 the Government declared an Alert State. The Government offered the 30 Vickers Wellington bombers ordered for the new RNZAF to the British Government and this was accepted with alacrity.

Continue reading “Lest we forget”

NZ’s Defence assets are out of action or over-burdened – so sorry, we can’t help in the Gulf

Defence  Minister    Ron  Mark  was in  ebullient form, telling  Parliament  this  week  how  much he had   achieved  in defence  since he took over the portfolio  from  National’s  Mark  Mitchell.  And it  does  look  an impressive list.

There’s $5.2bn worth of procurement running right now. P-8s—done. Hercules—getting done. Network-enabled army—done. Protected mobility—done. The King Airs, four of them, now flying at Ōhākea—done. New simulator for the NH90s—done”.

So,  when a   request   comes   for   New Zealand  to help in the protection  of vital shipping lanes in the Middle East, one might   think  the Defence  Minister   would   relish the  opportunity  to   deploy  elements  of  the   NZ   Defence   Force.

But  what  was    Mark’s  response  when  asked to  link  with  Australia  in its decision to commit a ship, a surveillance aircraft and defence personnel in the multilateral effort to keep the Strait of Hormuz between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman open and safe for ships to pass through? Continue reading “NZ’s Defence assets are out of action or over-burdened – so sorry, we can’t help in the Gulf”

Anti-submarine upgrades reflect the return of reality to Defence thinking

Ever since the Lange Government in the 1980s and its anti-nuclear campaigns, the Navy and the RNZAF have been reluctant to talk about anti-submarine warfare.  Fortunately those days are past: the Lange campaign did nothing to reduce nuclear weapons, nor the spread of nuclear, let alone conventional, submarines.

Now real-world realities have returned. The two RNZN frigate Te Mana and Te Kaha are having their anti-submarine systems upgraded.  And Boeing has just completed a $US22m programme to improve the capability of the RNZAF’s five 50-year-old Orions in the anti-submarine warfare mission.

This project involved grades and modifications to both mission systems and aircraft components, the addition of improved simulation for training purposes, and support.

“Boeing’s low-risk, affordable and platform-agnostic solution utilises deployed sonobuoys to detect the type and location of submarines and sends information back to the acoustics operator,” says the company.

“The upgrade also includes an onboard training system that simulates deploying buoys and receiving underwater acoustic data to ensure acoustics operators experience real-world mission scenarios.”

Four P-8A Poseidons will replace the Orions beginning in 2023 and Boeing says the Orion upgrade will allow crews to more easily transition to the new type.




Middle East and China are on US Defence Secretary’s agenda during visit Down Under

The new US Secretary of Defence, Mark Esper, is in New Zealand today and tomorrow for top-level talks with NZ Defence Minister Ron Mark and other ministers.  He is on his way home from the annual AUSMIN talks in Australia between foreign and defence ministers.

The visit reinforces the strong NZ-US defence relations which have flourished since Foreign Minister Winston Peters’ visit to Washington DC last year.

The US has asked Australia to consider joining a US-led naval force in the Straits of Hormuz to protect tanker traffic from Iranian interception.  It is naturally drawing on as much support as it can garner from traditional allies, including Australia.

Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds confirmed she and Foreign Minister Marise Payne had canvassed the US request at Sunday’s meeting but that “no decision had been made”.

Continue reading “Middle East and China are on US Defence Secretary’s agenda during visit Down Under”

“Hit and Run” – so who is keeping score of the mounting costs of an inquiry to maintain confidence in our Defence Force?

So what  is  going on   with  the  inquiry    which  the government decided  should be held  into Operation Burnham and related events?

Operation Burnham,  you  will  recall, happened  nearly  nine years  ago – to be  precise, in August 21-22, 2010, in Tirgiran Valley in Afghanistan.  It was  an  action by soldiers  of  NZ’s elite SAS,  operating as a part of the International Security Assistance Force.

Reviews   of what occurred by  two former defence ministers  as well as  by a former  prime minister found that Operation Burnham was conducted with the  highest  level of  professionalism.  Over-riding this, the Wellbeing Government  decided  to hold an  inquiry,  “bearing  in  mind  the need for   the public to have confidence in the NZDF”.

This  followed  the controversy  stirred  up  by the publication  in  “Hit and Run”, a book written  by  Nicky Hager  and  Jon Stephenson,  of  allegations that   six civilians were killed and 15 injured in a raid on villages by the NZ SAS.  Continue reading ““Hit and Run” – so who is keeping score of the mounting costs of an inquiry to maintain confidence in our Defence Force?”