Arrival of the RNZAF P3K2 Orion

21 April 2011

The Royal New Zealand Air Force will welcome back to New Zealand the first of six P-3K2 (formerly the P3) Orion maritime patrol aircraft at Auckland (Whenuapai) Air Force Base on Saturday 23 April 2011.

The return of the P-3K2 Orion is a significant milestone not only for the RNZAF but also Ministry of Defence and the NZ Government. The P-3K2 Orion is a quantum leap forward in technology and will improve the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability the Defence Force can direct on military operations or in support of other Government agencies.

Media are invited to the arrival of the P-3K2 Orion as detailed below. The Chief of Air Force (CAF) Air Vice Marshal Graham Lintott will be available for media interviews. Please note, media will not be allowed access to the P-3K2 Orion. An official RNZAF welcome ceremony is being planned for Monday 2nd May 2011 at Whenuapai. Media will be invited to attend this ceremony and allowed access to the legacy P3 Orion in addition to the P-3K2 Orion.

All media interested in attending are to register interest with Squadron Leader Kavae Tamariki, Senior Media Advisor (Air Force) on 021 420 899. Media are to report to the Main Gate Whenuapai no later than 1530hrs and will require photo ID to gain access to Base.
Venue: RNZAF Operational Support Wing Auckland (Whenuapai)

P-3K2 Orion Arrival Time: 1600hrs. If the aircraft is delayed for any reason media will be contacted as early as possible to advise changes.
Media Arrival Time: 1500 - 1530hrs:


For further information, please contact Squadron Leader Kavae Tamariki, Senior Media Advisor (Air Force) Mob 021 420 899.


The Royal New Zealand Air Force’s (RNZAF) six P-3K2 Orion’s are undergoing a series of modifications to update their surveillance, reconnaissance, navigation and communication systems. The upgrade project will also deliver crew trainers and software testing and integration tools. The upgrade will improve the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability to support Government agencies and directed Government military operations, as well as ensuring navigation and communication systems meet future regulatory requirements. 

The equipment and capabilities delivered will introduce a significant and fundamental change in the operation of the Orion from its traditional maritime operations to include overland operations as well. To this extent the change in the philosophy and operating ethos of the Orion is recognised by transitioning from the Maritime Patrol Force (MPF) to the Airborne Surveillance and Response Force as new and upgraded capabilities are introduced into Service. This change will see a fundamental shift within the Defence Force on how we train our people, manage information flows and distribute information; these changes are already underway in preparation for the delivery of the first upgraded Orion. The upgrade has been complemented by an airframe upgrade (Project KESTREL) which will see the Orion remain in Service until 2025.

The modifications will greatly improve the P-3K2 capabilities and will include:
Communication systems
Navigation systems
Surveillance systems
Data Management systems
Glass flight deck
Flight Deck trainer
Crew trainer
System and Software testing and integration laboratories.
Flight planning systemsL-3 and various subcontractors (based in Greenville, Texas, USA) have completed modifications on the initial Prototype P-3K2, with the remainder of the fleet being upgraded at the Safe Air NZ plant at Woodbourne, Blenheim. The project cost is around $373 million.

This page was last reviewed on 19 May 2011.