The publication of the NZ Defence Force’s Capability Plan yesterday will kickstart an “arms race” as various countries compete to provide some of the force’s big ticket items.

The most controversial potential purchase will be the replacements for the Air Force’s tactical and strategic airlift aircraft; the “Hercules” C1 130s and the Boeing 757s.

POLITIK understands that already European Union countries have been lobbying strongly on behalf of Airbus to provide these aircraft while the US is supporting Boeing. (who now make the C130s).

A new entry in the race is Japan with its  Kawasaki C2 transport aircraft which it developed as a jet-engined replacement for the C130.

It has only just started flying, but it has a range of 10,000 km – an important attraction for New Zealand with its need to cover the 3800 km trip to the Antarctic and if necessary be able to turn around and come home without landing.

Japan lifted its embargo on arms exports two years ago and was bitterly disappointed in April when Australia cancelled a $50 billion order for 12 Japanese built submarines.

A sale of aircraft to New Zealand — though not worth nearly so much — would still make an important political point.

The Airbus A400 m has a similar range to the C2, but the replacement C130J has a lower range.

The Japanese have begun lobbying in Wellington to have their aircraft considered, and they also would like New Zealand eventually to buy their Kawasaki P1 maritime patrol aircraft to replace out existing P3 Orions.

But America has a competing aircraft based on the Boeing 737 aircraft it is also anxious to sell.


The plan, published yesterday by Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee, provides for these aircraft to be procured by 2030.

The plan details an investment of  20 billion investment in defence capability out to 2030.

The Plan is the next step in delivering on the Defence White Paper, released in June this year.

“Since then the government has agreed to the procurement of an ice-strengthened naval tanker and high mobility vehicles for the Special Air Service,” Mr Brownlee says.

“It has also approved upgrades to the underwater surveillance capability of the P-3 Orion and has requested tenders for a littoral operations vessel.

“In response to the assessment of New Zealand’s strategic outlook in the Defence White Paper, the government will also invest in an ice-strengthened offshore patrol vessel, replacement of our maritime surveillance aircraft in the 2020s, and a cyber protection and support capability for deployed forces.”

Other major investments over the period include:

  • Replacing the ANZAC frigates with modern combat vessels;
  • New transport aircraft to replace the C-130 and B757 fleets;
  • Digitising land forces through the Network Enabled Army programme;
  • Rolling purchases of modern weapons and protective equipment;
  • Protected mobility vehicles; and
  • Secure strategic communications capabilities.