The New Zealand government has confirmed its intention to buy five Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules transports to replace its ageing fleet of five C-130Hs.
The confirmation by Defence Minister Ron Mark comes after New Zealand announced its intention to buy the aircraft in June 2019 to coincide with the release of its Defence Capability Plan. The foreign military sale (FMS) was approved by the US State Department in November 2019.
“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,” Mr Mark said. “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.”
Valued at NZ$1.521bn (A$1.42bn) includes the aircraft, a full mission simulator, and other supporting infrastructure. The new aircraft will be equipped with a wide bandwidth, high speed satellite communications (SATCOM) system, and an electro-optical/infra-red EO/IR turret under the nose radome.
“This equipment will make our new Super Hercules among the most capable in the world,” Mr Mark added. “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.”
The first C-130J is scheduled to be delivered in 2024 and 2025, while options for the replacement of the RNZAF’s two Boeing 757 transports are due to be considered in 2021 for service entry later in the decade.