New Zealand Air Surveillance

The New Zealand Government announced on December 23 that it will give early consideration to its Future Air Surveillance Capability (FASC) programme, as a result of responses received from industry, following a recent request for information.

The FASC programme will replace the RNZAF’s fleet of six P-3K2 Orion maritime patrol aircraft in service with No.5 Squadron at RNZAF Base Auckland (Whenuapai). The original schedule called for FASC final operational capability to be declared in the 2023-2025 timeframe, but the accelerated timeline is not yet clear.

New Zealand also has a C-130H Hercules replacement (Future Air Mobility Capability, FAMC) programme underway and the government has said it wants to explore synergies between the FASC and FAMC programmes.

A New Zealand Defence Force spokesman said: “Defence is interested to explore any potential synergies between the two projects that would optimise platform operation, training and through-life logistic support. To this end, companies providing information on air mobility platform solutions may also wish to provide information on any non-developmental intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.”

In early January, press reports from Tokyo revealed how representatives from the Japanese Ministry of Defence and Kawasaki Heavy Industries had been in discussions with the NZDF to offer the Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol aircraft for the FASC and the twinengine C-2 transport aircraft for the FAMC. If selected, it would be the first export success for either aircraft.

The P-1 had previously been offered to the Royal Air Force, which subsequently selected the Boeing P-8A Poseidon. Two Japan Maritime Self Defense Force P-1s visited New Zealand in November, initially for the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th Anniversary celebrations, but at least one subsequently flew surveillance missions over a region of the country devastated by earthquake.

Airbus Defence and Space previously indicated it will offer A400M heavy lift aircraft and C295 medium transports to meet the FASC and FAMC requirements, the C295 with a roll-on/roll-off mission system, similar to system used by the Força Aerea Portuguesa (Portuguese Air Force).

Nigel Pittaway