Five new Lockheed Martin Super Hercules aircraft to replace ageing fleet

Defence Minister Ron Mark has announced that new Lockheed Martin Super Hercules aircraft would replace the outdated and costly 1960s Hercules fleet.

The $1.521b project will include a flight simulator for staff training and other supporting infrastructure.

"This fleet will ensure the Defence Force can continue to support New Zealand's community resilience, our national security, our contribution to our Pacific neighbours and the wider global community," Minister Mark said.

The aircraft and simulator are being bought through the United States' foreign military sales process, in a package that includes aircrew and maintainer training.

Minister Mark said this would reduce costs and allow collaboration with other nations on developments.

The new planes will be faster, can travel further and will be fitted with a wide bandwidth, high speed satellite communications system and an electro-optical/infra-red camera, which is expected to be useful on disaster relief and search and rescue missions.

The government also plans to spend $21 million to upgrade the Air Force's NH90 helicopters with improved communication, navigation, air traffic management and identification systems.

The Defence Minister criticised the previous National-led government for "kicking the can down the road", and said the old fleet of Hercules planes needed to be replaced.

The first of the new Super Hercules will arrive in 2024, with all five operating a year later.

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