It has emerged that one of the key purchases unveiled in the Defence Force priorities a couple of weeks ago has significant short comings that may affect its ability to meet all of the Royal New Zealand Air Force requirements. There are several distinct short comings in the C-130J-30 purchase, which was announced by Minister for Defence, Ron Mark a couple of weeks ago.
So, what are the short comings of the C-130J?
- The plane is unable to carry the LAVIII that is in use with the New Zealand Army, unless it has been disassembled, which is time consuming, and the only other options for transporting it are put it on H.M.N.Z.S. Canterbury, which means a considerably slower transportation time or ask the Royal Australian Air Force (R.A.A.F.) to transport it for us
- The C130-J30 cannot land on damaged runways, which is something the aircraft put forward in rival contenders could do, and which is quite a distinct prospect in the South Pacific where basic infrastructure is at best, poor
- It cannot carry the NH-90 helicopter at all, which means they will require in flight refuelling to reach any of our Pacific Island neighbours
- It has a shorter range that will limit its time in the air on search and rescue and patrol to a greater extent than its rivals
The alternative aircraft that were mooted as potential replacements to the C-130H were:
- A400M from Airbus, a turboprop which was my personal preference and which is able to do all of the above functions – more expensive than the C-130J30
- C-17 from Boeing, which is often seen at Christchurch International Airport in support of the American Operation Deep Freeze in Antarctica – the major drawback is that the cost for just two of them was likely to be about $2 billion
- C-2 from Kawasaki, which is a medium size transporter with similar performance to the A400M, but jet powered and more expensive than the C-130J30
National Party spokesperson for Defence Mark Mitchell was correct to point out that bypassing the tender process was a mistake. Bypassing the tendering process was a significant mistake because formal applications were not taken and instead a less robust process that might not – and in this case DID NOT – lead to a suitable outcome as among other things the formal criteria that the potential planes had to meet was not properly set out. Nor would it have been as rigorously assessed as it should have been.
This continues where the LAVIII debacle leaves off. A major purchase has been made, ironically by the same Minister, who when New Zealand First spokesperson for Defence in the early part of last decade, actively – and correctly – derided the LAVIII purchase. We are now potentially stuck with a type aircraft that cannot do the tasks we need it too and whose specifications are not fitting with the needs of the New Zealand Defence Force.