The Government will spend close to $2.3 billion on four state-of-the-art maritime patrol aircraft from the US.
Making the announcement during the Acting Prime Minister’s post-cab press conference on Monday, Defence Minister Ron Mark told media it was a decision the Government “had not made lightly.”
The four new P-8A Poseidon aircraft will replace the six “ageing” P-3K2 Orion patrol airplanes.
No. 5 Squadron, which currently operates the Orions, will shift from Whenuapai to Ohakea air force base to operate the P-8As.
Mark says the purchase ensures the Defence Force can continue delivering New Zealand’s maritime surveillance, as well as resource protection and humanitarian work.
In total, the four aircraft will cost taxpayers $2.246 billion. They will begin operation in five years’ time.
Mark says the P-8A’s were the most cost-effective maritime patrol aircraft option available.
The cost of the investment will be spread over a number of financial years out to 2026, Mark says.
“The previous Government put off the hard calls on Civil defence procurement for far too long – it would be irresponsible for this Government to continue kicking that can down the road.”
National’s Defence Spokesman Mark Mitchell has welcomed the new aircraft.
“The procurement of the P8s sends a positive signal to our allies and partners, showing that we will remain a capable Defence Force, and are well equipped to play our role on the international stage, alongside providing support to regional security arrangements.”
Mark was adamant the P8’s are the best option for the Government.
“I was a P8 sceptic, but no matter how I looked at this case, the aircraft stacks up on its own and it is the only option that delivers all of the capabilities.”
With the spend comes a full simulation training system, which will allow for the training of pilots, crew and engineers, he says.
“50% of the cost is the infrastructure, the relocating of 5 Squadron and the rest is about the aircraft.”
Mark would not say if this was the cheapest option the Government considered, citing “commercial confidentiality.”
“But it is the best deal – let me put it to you that way. I wouldn’t be assuming that it was the dearest option on an aircraft-by-aircraft basis, that’s all I’ll say to you.”
NZ faces collateral damage from US/China trade war
Meanwhile, Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters says New Zealand will likely suffer some collateral damage as a result of the US/China trade war.
At 4pm Friday New Zealand time, the Trump administration imposed $34 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese goods.
These include flat-screen televisions, aircraft parts, and medical devices. The goods marked for tariffs will now face a 25% border tax when they’re imported into the US.
China responded by imposing 25% tariffs on $34 billion worth of US goods, including soybeans, automobiles, and lobsters.
Peters says New Zealand need to “do our best to adjust to it and ensure we survive from it.”
“We could suffer some collateral damage as a consequence. That means we could be impacted as a consequence.”
He says the Government believes in “certain rules-based international engagements and protocols” – potentially a nod to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).