Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR June 2015 Contents B
oeing’s decision to shut down its C-17
Globemaster production line in Long
Beach, California, and invite offers
for the last five aircraft has prompted
a hurried reassessment of New
Zealand’s long-term military transport requirements.
The offer came as officials were part way through
preparation of this year’s Defence White Paper,
setting out a long-term blueprint for the Defence
Force, its capabilities, acquisition programme and
all-important funding requirements.
This will include options for the replacement of
its aging squadron of five Hercules C-130Hs and
two Boeing 757s, which serve multiple roles as
long-range military aircraft and VIP transports. These
aircraft are all scheduled to come up for replacement
in the next decade or so.
Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee announced the
Globemaster was under consideration when he and
members of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defence
and Trade Select Committee took a brief flight on an
RAAF C-17 when it flew into Wellington earlier this
He said the Ministry of Defence was receiving
price and availability information on the C-17 from the
United States Government as part of its long term
review of airlift capability.
“Consideration of New Zealand’s continuing
engagement in the Antarctic, and our ability to
respond to natural disasters and provide humanitarian
aid in the Pacific, means options for future airlift
capability need to be explored.
“While the C-17 may not prove to be the best
solution for New Zealand, we owe it to ourselves to
look at it seriously while we can,” said Brownlee.
It is unclear when decisions will be made on the
C-17 offer or what is Boeing’s deadline - and in
addition the company has indicated there is interest
from other countries. There was no indication in New
Zealand’s May 21 Budget that money has been made
available for the purchase, but that is unsurprising as
a deal has not yet been struck.
However, Brownlee’s interest in the C-17 has
been backed by Opposition Labour Party defence
spokesman and former Defence Minister Phil Goff
who said that as the production line is being shut
down this is an option that has to be looked at now if
they are to be considered as possible replacements
for the RNZAF’s C-130 Hercules fleet, which is up for
replacement by around 2022 or 2023.
C-17s certainly have some advantages with a
payload and much greater range than the Hercules.
They can be used to transport the Air Force’s
NH90s and the Army’s LAV armoured vehicles
and they have the range to get to the Antarctica, a
difficult proposition for the Hercules which reach their
turnaround point two hours out from the runway that
services the McMurdo and Scott Base stations.
The C-17 is a proven and highly capable aircraft
and interoperable with the Australian and US Air
But because it is such a big aircraft it is not suitable
for use on many of the operations now conducted
by the C130s – particularly flying into small rough
airfields in the Pacific Islands. It is also very expensive
to operate at about $20,000 per hour or around twice
the cost of a Hercules.
Goff says he has been told by defence officials
that if two C-17s are purchased the RNZAF will
still need to retain at least a couple of the C-130s,
the last of which is just coming through its life
extension refurbishment and still has about 15 years
of operational life.
The C-17 option came out of the blue and
presents another layer of complexity and expense on
a severely limited defence budget. With other large
capital commitments needed in the next decade to
replace the ANZAC frigates and the P-3 Orions the
Government has been looking at possibly shedding
some military capabilities as it did when the air
combat capability was scrapped.
However, there is strong support for the C-17s by
officials who argue they will substantially enhance
This view is supported by former Defence Minister
Wayne Mapp who remembers with frustration the
difficulties of getting to and from Afghanistan where
New Zealand had its provincial reconstruction team
base in Bamiyan. Leasing aircraft to deploy troops
and equipment has also been a frequent cause of
delay and frustration for ministers and defence chiefs.
He is convinced the C-17s are not too big and
expensive for New Zealand’s small Defence Force
to acquire and operate. Mapp scoffs at suggestions
that it’s a capability likely to sit unused for much of the
time and points to the Australian experience where
they have proven so useful, they have been used
more and more.
Mapp, who was recently appointed to serve on
a Defence White Paper advisory panel, says his
ministerial office did a desktop study in 2010 which
showed there was a strong case to acquire two
New ZealaNd eNticed to buy last
Boeing C-17s Hank ScHouten // Wellington
A Royal Air Force C-17 Globemaster takes off from RAAF
Base Amberley to help support the relief efforts in Vanuatu
in the aftermath of tropical cyclone Pam. Credit: CoA
12 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter JUNE 2015
28/05/2015 3:42 pm
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