Royal New Zealand Air Force / Te Hokowhitu o Kahurangi
By Maarten Peters / Hans van Herk
The Royal New Zealand Air Force
New Zealand became independent from the United Kingdom on 26 September 1907. Military aviation in New Zealand started in 1912 with two Army Staff Officers being sent to the UK to learn the science of flying. The flying corps received its first aircraft, a Bleriot, in 1913. The Royal New Zealand Air Force was established as a separate arm of the Defence Force on 1 April 1937.
World War II led to a rapid expansion of the Air Force and New Zealand's airmen played a role in several regions, with the majority of activities being on behalf of the RAF. Post-war activities also included aircraft being stationed in South East Asia and in the Pacific. As time progressed the Air Force element was reduced more and more. Specific details on the history of the Royal New Zealand Air Force can be found at the below mentioned link.
In 2001 the government decided the Air Force had to withdraw its Air Combat fleet. As a result, all A-4 Skyhawks and MB339s were withdrawn from active duty on 13 December 2001. This leaves the service at the start of 2006 with a maritime squadron flying Orions, a transport squadron with C-130s and B757s, a helicopter squadron operating Hueys and Bell 47s, a maritime rotor squadron operating the SH-2Gs, a multi-engine conversion squadron with Beech 200s and a Flying and Pilot training school with leased Airtrainers.
The latest changes have been the delivery of the SH-2G Seasprites and the reinstatement of 6sq, a squadron who was disbanded in 1954. Starting October 2005, the first C-130 went to Canada to have the C-130 Life Extension Program (C-130 LEP) performed. The scope of the project is the replacement of specific mechanical, avionic, and structural components. The design and installation of modern communications and navigations system will meet evolving air traffic management regulations utilising a modernised 'glass' flight deck with integrated flight management systems. Only the first Hercules will be modified in Canada, the remaining will be modified in New Zealand itself. The last aircraft is due to be returned to the RNZAF at the end of 2010.
The mission systems and the communication and navigation systems on the six P-3K Orion aircraft operated by the Royal New Zealand Air Force are also being upgraded. The scope of this project includes the replacement of the data management, sensor, communications and navigation systems, and the provision of associated ground systems. Again, the first airplane will be modified abroad while the other five will be modified in New Zealand itself. The last Orion will return to service in 2010. In 2004 the Government decided to replace the 35 year old Hueys by the NH90 helicopter in its Medium Utility Helicopter requirement. As the Sioux has to be replaced also for the Training and Light Utility Helicopter Requirement, the possible candidates will also be considered in parallel with the work currently being done on the NH90 project in order to derive an overall fleet mix and the optimum number of helicopters.