New choppers cost twice as much as planned
Fri, 09 Mar 2012 6:20p.m.
By Tova O’Brien
The new Defence Force NH90 helicopters that will replace the old iroquois choppers will end up costing almost twice as much as originally budgeted for at a time when the force has been told to make cuts of hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Defence Force's newest toys are faster, stronger and more versatile than the iroquois they replace but the NH90s are also a lot more expensive.
“We’ve got to make sure it’s managed efficiently so we’ll only fly it when we really have to,” says Air Vice-Marshall Peter Stockwell, Chief of Air Force.
Four hundred million dollars was originally budgeted for the nine machines but that blew out to $772 million which is more than twice the amount of a government imposed savings target on the Defence Force which has seen hundreds of jobs lost.
“It’s been a long process of negotiating a deal there and the Defence Force is confident it got an excellent deal,” says the Defence Minister, Jonathan Coleman.
The NH90s replace 46-year-old iroquois which, despite their age, are still travelling well.
“It’s still giving the Air Force sterling service really, and it’ll be a real sad day actually when we see the last huey fly for the Air Force – it’ll be a very sad day for a lot of people,” says Wing Commander Chris Andrew.
The new helicopters were ordered in 2006 but their arrival delayed was delayed, in part, because of faults uncovered by the German Armed Forces.
When they first tested the aircraft they identified a raft of problems: a weak rear ramp, floors that cracked, limited clearance space and seats that could not hold the weight of the crew. But the Air Force here is confident there are no longer problems.
“We deliberately came on board and brought this aircraft behind the Germans if you like, behind those leading customers, so we could let them work through those teething problems,” says Wing Commander Shaun Sexton of the CO Helicopter Transaction Unit.
The machines will be used for counter-terrorism, search and rescue and disaster relief including, 3 News is told, winching cows from flooded paddocks.
“It’s got to be fit for a very wide range of tasks - it can lift up to 3200kgs: That would be a very large cow obviously.
And a very big price tag.
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12/03/2012 2:47:40 p.m.
NZ has spent over a billion $ on heli on non-proven, high price tag gear.
If the option was there, the Bell UH-1Y with a AH-1Z option should have been considered. The attack heli has proven it's value in Iraq & A-stan.
@Craig, all gear should be brought based on whats best for a combat role, not a NZ emergency response, eg. saving sheep from a flood.
11/03/2012 1:56:10 p.m.
@Aidz, the US uses the UH-60 as it's utility aircraft. Specifically because they are extremely capable, yet cheap...comparatively. New Zealand is only copying our Aussie brethren on this one. And here's the suck...the Aussies only went with NH Industries to get back at Sikorsky, whom they thought were being arrogant in the bidding for newer aircraft. New Zealand allowed itself to get caught up in a grudge match. I'm afraid you can't blame the US on this one...this is all Oceania's "chip on the shoulder" problem.
11/03/2012 10:03:11 a.m.
@Craig, we shouldn't be spending millions for fun. We need effective emergency responses, yes. The fact is with this chopper there were cheaper alternatives for its purposes, ie, winching cows. Let's face it, the NZ defence force is trying to be as extravagant as others (the US).
11/03/2012 6:21:38 a.m.
Craig, you could not possibly be any more wrong about Hueys...they are fun. You will hardly find a Huey driver who would say otherwise. I guess I understand your point about operational effectiveness, but your choice of words...way off.
10/03/2012 8:21:41 p.m.
Who is going to spit the dummy over these obsolete German made flying pieces of junk,that will fall to pieces after a few hundred hours of flying.
10/03/2012 7:13:54 p.m.
@Aidz I think you'll find flying around in 40 year old helicopters is not fun. We do need them if we are to maintain an emergency response.
10/03/2012 4:54:29 p.m.
If they had gone with the Sikorsky UH-60M, they could have gotten double the number at a quarter of the price. Buying an untried airframe is a terrible plan for a nation as small as New Zealand. Also, unlike with the Hueys, the NH-90's are far too expensive to deploy on local search and rescue flights, they will save the hours for overseas missions; so therefore, all those Kiwi tax dollars will be spent for the benefit of other nations.
9/03/2012 9:17:54 p.m.
We all know NZ definitely does NOT need these. We all know it. This is just a waste of tax payer money.
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