13 April 2012
The introduction into service of the new NH90 helicopter is going very well the Chief of Defence Force has confirmed.
He was responding to concerns raised today by media about a number of issues identified in June 2011, in a report prepared by the Ministry of Defence and the New Zealand Defence Force.
This report was discussed at length at a recent public hearing of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee (FADTC), and today Lieutenant General Rhys Jones reiterated the assurances accepted by the FADTC committee that any issues related to the NH90 were being well managed and solutions identified.
"At the time the Major Projects Report was written, around a year ago, a number of risks were identified," he says. "In the past twelve months most of those issues have been addressed. Because our helicopters are still in production we are able to incorporate improvements prior to delivery.
"We began flying the helicopter here in New Zealand in February and the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) has achieved all intended activities with the NH90, as it had planned. In total the RNZAF have to date amassed 51.5 flying hours on the two NH90s in New Zealand."
Lt Gen Jones says the NH90 was chosen following a competitive tender and evaluation process. It was assessed to be the helicopter that best met the widest range of New Zealand’s requirements.
"New Zealand is one of 16 countries taking delivery of some 500 NH90 and is party to the collaborative efforts to address the inevitable technical issues that arise with any new platform."
Lt Gen Jones gave as an example of the types of issues already addressed, the concern raised by one media outlet today, that the NH90 would not be able to fly in snow.
"As many of the countries purchasing the NH90 are Scandinavian countries, you can imagine issues around performance in snow have been quickly resolved. A solution has been identified, tested and is just going through the final verification before being implemented to NH90s globally."
Lt Gen Jones says the NH90 is a modern helicopter, which will form the cornerstone of the New Zealand Defence Force capability over the next 30 years. The helicopter incorporates new technologies and will ensure greater compatibility with our security partners.
"The NH90 represents a substantial improvement on the Iroquois and will provide the NZ Defence Force with a contemporary, highly capable and deployable helicopter. Both our Army and Air Force are looking forward to this helicopter becoming operational."
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