The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) retired its first Lockheed P-3K2 Orion maritime patrol aircraft on September 24, after 55 years of operational service.
The aircraft - serial NZ4203 - conducted its final flight from RNZAF Base Auckland (Whenuapai) at approximately 1040hrs (local time) and flew to RNZAF Base Woodbourne, where it will be dismantled. This was the first of six Orions to be retired by the RNZAF.
This specific aircraft was delivered to the RNZAF in January 1967 and by the time it was withdrawn from service, it had completed more than 27,000 flying hours in support of RNZAF deployments, exercises and operations across the world.
The five remaining P-3K2s are operated by No 5 Squadron at RNZAF Base Auckland (Whenuapai). One of the remaining airframes - serial NZ4201 - has been earmarked for preservation in the RNZAF Museum at Wigram.
New Zealand's Orion fleet will be replaced by four Boeing P-8A Poseidons, sourced through a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract, which was given US State Department approval on April 28, 2017. On March 30, 2020, Boeing was awarded an approximately US$1.55bn contract modification that covered the production of 18 Lot 11 P-8As. This included eight examples for the US Navy, four for the RNZAF and six for the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN). New Zealand's first Poseidon is due to be delivered in 2022.