The New Zealand Defence Force is set for an estimated more than $1 billion upgrade with C-130J-30 Super Hercules aircrafts chosen to replace the current C-130Hercules planes.
Cabinet has decided to seek detailed costing information for a replacement aircraft, Defence Minister Ron Mark announced in a statement today, saying the replacement of the five Hercules transport aircraft is "the highest priority project within the Coalition Government’s Defence Capability Plan 2019".
"Tactical air transport capability is one of the highest value assets available to New Zealand, offering huge utility to the community and nation, enabling movement of personnel and cargo around the country, the South Pacific, down to Antarctica and all around the globe," Mr Mark says.
"The current Hercules have served us well since the 1960s, but they have reached the end of the road, and suitable and proven replacement aircraft will need to be sourced," he says. "The current fleet is increasing in cost to maintain, and is taking longer to put through maintenance.
The Super Hercules was chosen because it offers the necessary range and payload capability as well as fully meeting NZDF’s requirements.
The C-130J, manufactured by Lockheed Martin and with more than 400 C-130Js, has been been delivered to over 21 nations, including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.
"It is used by key Defence partners and carries a greater payload faster and further than the current fleet, with no loss of ability to land where our current Hercules are deployed," Mr Mark says.
"We need a proven performer, and this aircraft is tried and tested. We cannot take risks with what is one of our most critical military capabilities."
A price will be sought through the United States' Foreign Military Sale process.
No final contract decision has been made, on either platform numbers, detailed costs, or funding and Budget implications. A Project Implementation Business Case is scheduled to be progressed to Cabinet next year, where these matters will be considered. The Defence Capability Plan 2019 noted that the estimated cost would be more than $1 billion.