Air Force stands by $150m US aircraft deal

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1 NEWS

The Air Force has unveiled its new state of the art pilot training aircraft amid concerns over the Government's deal with the US manufacturer.

New trainer pilot aircraft come with a price tag of about $150 million each.
Source: 1 NEWS

Two of the 11 planes, which have a price tag of $150 million, have arrived and are equipped with ejector seats, pressurised cockpits and a collision avoidance system.

The new T-6C Texans will replace the CT4C Airtrainers which have been used for the past four decades.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman says the aircraft are a necessary investment as they will provide pilots with the best possible training experience.

The fleet has been supplied by US manufacturer Beechcraft, while the maintenance work will be done by New Zealand firm Safe Air rather than the Air Force.

The Government admits using external contractors will increase operating costs but says 21 manufacturing jobs will be created, largely in the Manawatu.

However, the Green Party's defence spokesman is concerned the deal will place NZ too close to the US.

"The general lesson is that the closer you get in defence relationship with the United States the more likely you are to purchase American military equipment."

Mr Coleman has responded to the criticism, saying the decision was carefully considered. He simply added: "There's nothing wrong with this deal."

The Air Force is set to receive its new fleet by the middle of next year and pilot training will begin in 2016.

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