The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) welcomed home the first upgraded P-3K2 ‘Orion’ at Whenuapai on April 23 after it was upgraded by L-3 Systems in Texas as part of a NZ$373m (A$280m) contract to enhance the six RNZAF Orions’ surveillance, reconnaissance, navigation and communication systems, and the delivery of crew trainers, and software testing and integration tools.
“This project means a great deal to the RNZAF and the Ministry of Defence. Today is a significant milestone for them,” NZ Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said. “This puts the Air Force at the forefront of technology. The Orion will now have vastly more capability across its whole range of missions, from military operations through to search and rescue, supporting our Pacific relationships and effective monitoring of our Exclusive Economic Zone.”
The upgrade work on the five aircraft has taken far longer than planned, which Minister Mapp put down to “the poor management of the previous government.”
The remaining five RNZAF P-3Ks are being upgraded to P-3K2 standard by Air New Zealand subsidiary Safe Air at Blenheim.
An official RNZAF welcome ceremony for the first P-3K2 is being planned for May 2 at Whenuapai.