Aircraft

Replacing the C-130H and the P-3K Orions is a given because the air force will need to do this by 2020 anyway. This sites plan to merge No.40 and No.5 squadron relies on finding an aircraft platform capable of performing both transport and coastguard missions.

One option would be to replace the C-130Hs with the Super Hercules C130J as the Australians have. The problem with the Herc, however, is that it is slow, old and Lockheed Martin gouge customers. What is needed is a transport that borrows from commercial jet liners to achieve economic operations. Fortunately such an aircraft exists. 

Helicopters are a problem. The problem is we have 8 Seasprites bought for a steal ($140m) which would be excellent value if they had a cabin for carrying troops.  Unfortunately they can only carry four. By contrast we have 8 NH90s which could be useful except that we bought the TTH version not the naval NFH so our NH90s weren't navalised (i.e built to resist seaspray) so flying it near or over salt water for any length of time is to be discouraged.  This is why the air force doesn't like putting them aboard the Canterbury.  It has no weapons, no mid air refueling ability and requires a giant Russian transport aircraft to be deployed by air. While it can fly at night and in bad weather it is fundamentally a transport helicopter for operations within New Zealand but which costs twenty two times more to operate compared to renting or wet leasing civilian machines.

So while the Seasprite would be great if it had a decent sized cabin the fact is it doesn't. That doesn't mean it can't be used for something else however. But instead of the NH90s what is needed is a navalised helicopter, able to be deployed by air or sea, or self deploy with mid-air refuelling, able to carry a section of Marines or divers or SAR specialists, with rockets or missiles if needed or add-on fuel tanks. Unfortunately only one machine meets this specification.


The KC-390 is a remarkable new transport aircraft from Brazilian manufacturer Embraer. The aircraft uses two IAE V2500 engines similar to those on the A320 passenger aircraft but can lift up to 21 tonnes and fly up to 3,250nm on internal fuel. The internal dimensions are slightly more generous than the C-130 but the aircraft is a jet so it cruises higher and faster.


The aircraft however is also a flying tanker and can refuel aircraft or helicopters in the air. The KC-390 has a sea surveillance radar able to track 200 vessels simultaneously.


The aircraft is very modern and not surprisingly achieves high availability. As a result no more than four aircraft (costing $125m each) would be needed to a total order cost of about $550m.

This is a new spend because the existing capability is failing rapidly. Replacing the 5 C-130Hs with C-130Js would cost $500m by itself. If an A400M was chosen instead the cost for four would be $1.2 billion. Replacing the 5 P-3K with the Poesidon would cost 2+ billions. 


The only helicopter that meets the marine helicopter specification. The latest from the Blackhawk family this Sikorsky helicopter draws on thirty years of development and deployment by the United States. The Blackhawk was designed to be carried in a C-130 aircraft, can be adapted with stub wings for external tanks and or weapons, and is used for just about any mission the Americans can think of - which is rather a few. The aircraft can lift 4 tonnes externally with cabin space for 12 troops. It is inherently navalised so can be deployed on ships or fly over the ocean. Mid-air refuelling ability consistent with the KC-390 means the aircraft can cross the Ocean to operate from Raoul, Chathams or Auckland islands if necessary. 

The Knighthawk costs the Americans $32m but add don't expect to see one for less than $60m. Six should cost less than $400m.

Buying these helicopters lays the way for replacing the Kaman Seasprite when that aircraft reaches the end of its life sometime around 2030.


Kaman Seasprite SH-2

As noted the Seasprite is good value for money and an excellent Naval attack helicopter.  The only real problem with these helicopters is that we are Kaman's only customers. Nobody else operates them. While we have them and as they are such good helicopters we may as well keep them. 

However instead of fitting all of them with Kongsberg Penguin anti shipping missiles this site proposes turning the Seasprites into a rotary Electronic Countermeasures Combat Aircraft. This would make the Seaprite a platform for communications interception and location, while retaining the Maverick TV guided missile system for flying artillery operations. Additional elements for Seasprites would include:
  • ECM signals intelligence and intercept equipment
  • UAV subsystem piloting for reconnaissance and low altitude monitoring
  • 70mm rocket and precision guided munition system
  • Less than lethal light and sound projection system
  • side mounted weapon station for infantry weapon (e.g G/L or mg)
  • fixed forward 20mm cannon pod
 This would enable the Seasprite to fire Maverick missiles at a target monitored by the UAV from behind a hill and guide them onto the target without ever being exposed to AA fire.  It also means that if submarines ever do become a problem we still have a most potent ASW solution.

This would become the Aviation Battalion Combat ECM Squadron helicopter.

In time the Seasprite would need to be replaced, probably with more MH-60s in a similar configuration.


Helicopter Replacement Costs

The sale of 8 NH-90s should just about cover the cost of 8 MH-80S. The total cost to the taxpayer should be negligible.


Orion Experimental UAV


Sending aircraft and their crews out to look for fishing poachers, lost yachts, or keep an eye on developing situations in the Pacific is expensive. Filling up a P-3K Orion with its 28 tonnes of fuel costs $18,000 and that's not including all the other direct and overhead costs which go with operating an aircraft.  Especially galling is that most of the time the crew will be looking at the sea and the clouds. Better to send a robot which uses a tenth of the fuel out into the Pacific to provide a crew sitting at their desks back at base with data than waste everyone's time and money. Hence the benefits of UAVs.
The Americans have a lot of UAVs. That's because they have satellites. With the advent of Rocket Labs we can have satellites too. Satellites pipe the UAV data stream from the aircraft to the operators back at base and allow the operators to reprogramme the mission.
Most American UAVs are aggressively military. The drones are fast, armed and increasingly stealthy. But these are not qualities we really need. Our problem is the vast emptiness of the Pacific. We need a UAV that can fly like an Albatross, for days at a time, relaying data back to base.
The Aurora Flight Sciences Orion was an effort by a relatively small US company to attract the interest of the US Airforce for an ultra long range UAV. The effort failed as the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk initially captured the US Airforce's attention. Australia was initially also interested in buying the US$200m jet drones. However it is now believed Northrop Grumman's RQ 180 stealth reconnaissance drone has supplanted the Global Hawk. This means that the Orion, the world record holder for UAV endurance, is now gathering dust in the desert in California.
But the Orion is an excellent starting point for a New Zealand EEZ patrol drone - especially when paired with low earth orbit satellites. The Orion aircraft can fly 2,500 miles and then loiter for two and a half days over the target before returning to base. If the base were Ohakea this would be the available target radius.
The Orion weighs 5 tonnes including up to 2 tonnes of payload. The aircraft is very slow (90 knots) and with a 40 foot wingspan and diesel engines is more of a glider than an aeroplane. But while the aircraft is slow it carries only 2.3T of fuel and uses only 20% of the fuel of a Predator drone. The aircraft can carry a full range of signals intelligence sensors, imaging systems and radars. 
Aurora Flight Sciences is aware of the Maritime Patrol possibilities of the drone but is also lacking in funding. This would appear to be an excellent candidate for the Defence Venture Fund proposed by this site. 


Tactical UAVs

New Zealand already produces tactical UAVs. Developing these would also be a useful role for Defence Ventures.

New Zealand firm X-Craft in particular appears to have some interesting designs worth investing in

The Orpheus is an experimental platform but its recessed rotors would make it ideal for aerial launch and recovery.

The Angel ray is a stealthy fixed wing UAV able to glide long distances for silent information collection.



Training Aircraft


The following training aircraft would be acquired either second hand or under dry lease.



A small tactical transport the CASA 212 is one of the smallest aircraft with a rear loading ramp. The aircraft can carry 24 parachutists or a two tonne paradrop pallet. Indicative cost $30m for two.


One of the lowest operating costs and costs to own of any business jet/regional air liner. The Legacy 600 is a version of the ERJ145 air liner. The aircraft would be fitted out as an air ambulance for international medical team deployments plus an operations office for VIPs etc. The aircraft bridges the training gap between the Beechcraft Super King and CASA 212 to the KC-390. Indicative cost $60m for two.

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