The RNZAF has unveiled its first three new AgustaWestland A109 Light Utility Helicopters (LUHs) in a ceremony at RNZAF Base Ohakea today (May 13).
Attended by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, Minister of Defence Wayne Mapp and a host of other dignitaries, the ceremony also saw the opening of a new hangar to house the A109s, which are set to replace the RNZAF’s ageing fleet Bell 47 Sioux helicopters.
“The arrival of the A109LUH is a significant and exciting step in the upgrade and replacement of the Air Force’s rotary and fixed-wing platforms. This will see the RNZAF equipped with the capability necessary to operate even more effectively and efficiently in the 21st century,” Chief of Air Force Air Vice-Marshal Peter Stockwell said.
“The A109LUH is part of a Defence Force helicopter training system that includes computer based training, a procedural trainer and simulator. This provides a cost effective means of training aircrew prior to operational conversion onto the NH90 or SH-2G helicopters.
“Along with its training capability, the new A109LUH helicopter will be used for light utility tasks in support of the other services and government agencies,” AVM Stockwell said.
In addition, the A109 LUH’s new hangar, operated by No.3 Squadron, will also be home the RNZAF’s forthcoming eight new Eurocopter NH90 helicopters. AVM Stockwell said the new state-of-the-art hangar was necessary to house the RNZAF’s incoming helicopter fleet, with the existing World War 2 hangars at Ohakea proving inadequate.
New Zealand is acquiring five A109 LUHs, with the government considering purchasing an additional.