13-Mar-2012 Source: NZ Defence Force
Defence Minister, Dr Jonathan Coleman, today officially welcomed the first of the Air Forceâ€™s new medium utility NH90 helicopters at an event at Wellington Airport.
â€œThis is a very significant day for the Air Force and the wider NZDF,â€ Dr Coleman said. â€œThe NH90 helicopters are state of the art machines with better capabilities [than the Iroquois] and full selfâ€“protection. They are the most advanced and capable helicopters the Air Force has ever had,â€ Dr Coleman said.
â€œFor 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.â€
The Minister said that the helicopters will undergo a rigorous operational test and evaluation phase of some 12 â€“ 18 months, to ensure the aircraft are safe and fit for purpose before they are committed to operational use.
â€œThe NH90s will deliver the priorities outlined in the Defence White Paper and improve the Defence Forceâ€™s ability to conduct disaster relief, search and rescue, or other operations. The NH90 is particularly important for our future Joint Amphibious Task Force,â€™ 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.