Defence Minister, Dr Jonathan Coleman, today officially welcomed the first of the Air Force’s new medium utility NH90 helicopters at an event at Wellington Airport.
“This is a very significant day for the Air Force and the wider NZDF,” Dr Coleman said. “The NH90 helicopters are state of the art machines with better capabilities [than the Iroquois] and full self–protection. They are the most advanced and capable helicopters the Air Force has ever had,” Dr Coleman said.
“For example, there is a marked improvement in range and endurance over the existing Iroquois helicopters, so when they operate in Australia or among the South Pacific islands, this will be an immediate advantage.”
The Minister said that the helicopters will undergo a rigorous operational test and evaluation phase of some 12 – 18 months, to ensure the aircraft are safe and fit for purpose before they are committed to operational use.
“The NH90s will deliver the priorities outlined in the Defence White Paper and improve the Defence Force’s ability to conduct disaster relief, search and rescue, or other operations. The NH90 is particularly important for our future Joint Amphibious Task Force,’ he said.
Dr Coleman concluded by praising the constructive relationship with the manufacturer, NHI, and he commended the work of the Ministry of Defence and RNZAF acquisition team.
The Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Peter Stockwell, spoke after the Minister. Following their formal speeches of welcome, the new helicopter was blessed by the RNZAF Chaplain, before it started up and conducted a short flyby over Wellington Airport.
On completion the aircraft departed to Ohakea, to resume the current test and transition programme.
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