Government Looks To Slash Vital P-3 Orion Aircraft Numbers
A US State Department advisory has NZ First concerned that the Air Force’s six P-3K2 Orions, which undertake vital maritime patrol tasks, could be replaced by just four aircraft.
“We only know this news thanks to the transparency of the United States’ State Department and Department of Defense and doesn’t that speak volumes about this National Government,” says New Zealand First Leader and Northland MP Rt Hon Winston Peters.
“Of immediate concern to NZ First are the numbers involved. Replacing six aircraft with just four is a cut of one-third, especially when the 737-based P-8A Poseidon has the same range and loiter time as our Orions.
“There will be a cost but these aircraft will likely fly for many decades given that our P-3 Orions entered service back in 1966.
“Any cost must also be put alongside the criminals who landed $500m worth of narcotics onto our shores last year undetected. How many others have got through the keeper? We need more ships, more aircraft and maritime drones to patrol one of the world’s largest Exclusive Economic Zones.
“How will just four aircraft further hope to cover the vast slice of the planet we’ve been made responsible for? This extends from Antarctica to north of the equator and from mid-Tasman to east of the Cook Islands.
“If that’s not enough, we’re also responsible for the largest search and rescue area on earth with an RNZAF Orion making that point last week by saving a fisherman’s life off Tonga.
“This is why we need an open competition involving Boeing yes, but also Kawasaki, SAAB/Bombardier, Embraer and Lockheed Martin and others. We also need the government to come clean about its planned mix of aircraft types too,” says Mr Peters.