The New Zealand government has confirmed five Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Super Hercules transport aircraft will be purchased at a cost of over NZ$1 billion to replace the existing fleet, Defence Minister Ron Mark announced.
“Last year, cabinet selected these aircraft as the preferred option to replace the current Hercules fleet. Procurement of the Super Hercules has been my highest capability priority as Minister of Defence,” Minister Mark said.
“Along with the new fleet, the $1.521 billion project will deliver a full mission flight simulator and other supporting infrastructure."
The planes will replace the military's existing fleet of Hercules planes, which have suffered a number of embarrassing breakdowns over the years.
Minister Mark said the new planes would be used for operations in New Zealand, the south Pacific and Antarctica.
“Generations of New Zealanders have grown up and grown old with the Hercules, and they know these aircraft are an essential first line of response. This decision ensures the Defence Force will have the capability it needs to meet expected future tasks," he said.
“This fleet will ensure the Defence Force can continue to support New Zealand’s community resilience, our national security, our contribution to our Pacific neighbours and the wider global community.
“This decision ensures tactical airlift will remain available to undertake operations in New Zealand’s immediate region, as well as support our interests in Antarctica, often in support of other government agencies."
The new aircraft offers an upgrade in capability on the old retiring Hercules aircraft.
“The new aircraft will carry a greater payload, is faster and can travel further than the current Hercules aircraft," Minister Mark continued.
“Each aircraft will also be fitted with additional specialist capabilities, including wide bandwidth, high-speed satellite communications system and an electro-optical/infra-red camera.
“This equipment will make our new Super Hercules among the most capable in the world. The satellite communications system will allow imagery, video and data to be streamed in real-time, and the camera allows for aerial surveillance, including at the same time as the aircraft is undertaking transport tasks, particularly useful on humanitarian and disaster relief operations and search and rescue missions.”
Three of the nation's current C-130 Hercules planes date back to 1965 and the other two to 1969. They have been upgraded over the years, but frequent breakdowns have hampered some high-profile missions. At one point last year, the entire fleet was temporarily grounded.
New Zealand will take delivery of the first of the new Hercules aircraft in 2024, with the full fleet operating by 2025. The price tag of NZ$1.5 billion ($970 million) includes a flight simulator and supporting infrastructure.