VIDEO: New Air Force chopper takes to the skies
Fri, 09 Mar 2012 1:24p.m.
By Lloyd Burr
They may have been delayed by nearly a year but today, the first of the Air Force’s new NH90 helicopters took to the skies for its first official flight.
In front of international delegates, representatives from the helicopter’s manufacturers and Defence Force personnel, the new aircraft lifted off from Wellington Airport after a blessing ceremony.
The Defence Force has ordered nine NH90s with a total price tag of $771 million to replace the current fleet of Iroquois which are 45-years-old. One of the new helicopters will never fly and will be used for parts only.
The first two helicopters were delivered by plane to Ohakea in December last year and the Air Force has since been familiarising itself with the type.
The NH90 is a more technologically advanced aircraft and will provide the Defence Force with a greater range, a greater payload, better handling in bad weather and better functionality with the Navy’s HMNZS Canterbury.
Chief of Air Force Air Vice-Marshal Peter Stockwell says the NH90 “is one of the most sophisticated helicopters available”.
“The roles [the NH90 will be performing] will be very similar to the Iroquois so we won’t be changing much,” he says.
“The Iroquois did great service for us. They have been a fantastic fleet of aircraft and we are hoping to get the same length of service out of this aircraft.”
The NH90 delivery programme has been delayed by around three years globally but Air Vice-Marshal Stockwell says New Zealand’s NH90s have only been delayed by around nine months.
“It’s a complex aeroplane and these things do end up having delays in them normally,” he says.
As well as being delayed, there has also been a budget blow-out. The original cost was expected to be between $400-$550m but they ended up costing $771 million.
The Air Force says the cost underestimation was due to the lack of including transition costs – training and spare parts – into the sum.
“About one third of the project is related to all the support that is required so the actual cost of the helicopters was in the course of around $580 million,” Air Vice-Marshal Stockwell says.
He also says the Air Force is confident the NH90 has overcome some of the initial shortcomings experienced by the German Army – who have ordered 122 of the aircraft.
A report from the German Army in 2010 said there were clearance issues, weak floors and seats, and limited interior space.
“All those issues have been addressed,” he says. “We wouldn’t accept the aircraft if those problems still existed.”
“There will be issues that comes up but that’s normal in any project of this type but we are very confident we can manage those.”
The new helicopters are a big step up for the Air Force, especially from the Iroquois.
“For us, it is learning how to operate with a much more sophisticated platform. It has a very high level of integrated avionics on it so getting used to that big step up in technology is for us the biggest challenge,” Air Vice-Marshal Stockwell says.
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13/03/2012 10:09:57 a.m.
Daryll E Mac Alpine wrote:
I hope we can afford to at least get 3rd party, fire & theft insurance on them. Buying one for parts alone seems strange. If parts are needed then surely more parts will be required than what would be available by stripping them off of the complete aircraft? If you by a fleet of cars you don't by another one for parts. You buy the parts as you require them. If one part needs replacing on one aircraft then there is a good chance the part will need replacing on all of them.
I am glad that we have some decent kit for our servicemen at least.
12/03/2012 4:38:06 p.m.
Jeeze for that price Id expect them to cook your dinner and rub your back when you are finished. How come there is always these big buddget blow outs from unforseen costs, the people who do these budgets should be sacked for incometance or dishonesty for not forseeing this or allowing for it.
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