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New RNZAF chief takes the reins

written by australianaviation.com.au | May 5, 2014
Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) Mike Yardley takes command as Chief of Air Force in a ceremony at RNZAF Base Auckland. (RNZAF)
Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) Mike Yardley takes command as Chief of Air Force in a ceremony at RNZAF Base Auckland. (RNZAF)

Air Vice-Marshal Mike Yardley has assumed the role of Chief of Air Force in a ceremony held at RNZAF Base Auckland on April 30, taking over from AVM Peter Stockwell as head of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF).

AVM Stockwell congratulated AVM Yardley, stating: “AVM Yardley is an experienced operational commander and strategic leader, so he is very well placed to deal with the exciting challenges ahead for the RNZAF.”

Said the new CAF: “I look forward to guiding the Air Force as it continues to be a modern, innovative and capable force.”

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Comments (20)

  • Raymond


    A capable force?? Wonder what it feels like to NOT have an air combat capability??

  • George


    Probably not much different to the RAAF Raymond, except we move a bit slower. Luckily that doesn’t deter us from giving what help and assistance we can, if we can, to those who request our help and assistance. You don’t have to have field an air combat capability to be a capable force.

  • Andy


    Time for the RAAF & RNZAF combine into an ANZAC Air Force

  • John N


    I wouldn’t be too harsh on our Kiwi brothers across the ditch, considering the size (or lack of size) of the defence budget they have to work with, they are a professional and capable force.

    Australia’s annual defence budget is somewhere between 8-9 times larger so it’s pretty hard to do what they do across the three services with the relatively small amount they are given, they could certainly do with more too, in fact I read the other day the NZ Government had allocated another $535 Million to the NZ Defence budget over the next four years, that’s the equivalent of nearly $4.5 Billion added to the Australian defence budget (in percentage terms) over four years.

    The big challenge for the RNZAF in the coming years will be to convince their Government to provide extra and additional funds, sufficient to replace their aging maritime recon and transport fleets.

    With both Australia and NZ due to produce new Defence White Papers in the next 12 months or so, hopefully there can be consideration to upgrading the NZ fleets with capabilities that can complement the RAAF’s maritime and transport fleets, which seem to have been pretty well sorted and selected for the many years to come.

    Ideally their P-3’s should be replaced with P-8A’s, benefits of interoperability, support, training and maintenance with the RAAF. I’m sure RNZAF would probably like a Triton capability too, but that would probably be financially beyond them, so a possible solution would be for NZ to fund 1-2 airframes to be based with the RAAF’s Tritons, considering the vast amount of ocean that our two nations are responsible for, maybe this is a way we can both benefit.

    A good replacement for the C-130’s would be A400M’s, a big increase in capability, but also a capability that would fit nicely in between the RAAF’s C-17’s and C-130’s, the A400M’s also come with AA refuelling capability that would be of benefit to the RAAF’s Super Hornet and Growler fleets in a future coalition operation.

    NZ also needs smaller transports too (the Andover’s were never replaced), and a small fleet of C-27J’s would fit that bill, and again there would be benefits of interoperability, support, training and maintenance with the RAAF.


    John N

  • Raymond


    George – not sure whether I have your thought completely…

    The RAAF has an effective air combat force and it won’t be going away anytime soon! 72 F-35’s are now on order (replacing 71 F/A-18A/B’s), to add to 24 F/A-18F’s already in service and 12 EA-18G’s on order (with the potential of up to another 28 F-35’s in the future).

    The RNZAF has no air combat force and very little of anything that could be called air ‘combat’ capability. I disagree; an air ‘force’ without air combat assets lacks serious credibility and only being able to deal with very low-scale threats can hardly be described as capable. NZ spends a pitifully low amount as a percentage of GDP (just 1%) on defence (funding was the reason given for scrapping their ACF ~2001). I’m not anti-Kiwi at all; the NZDF is just not pulling their weight as an ally and are relying on Australia for any air power that’s ever required.

    Modern and innovative, yes, but capable is highly arguable.

  • Raymond


    Nevertheless, I do have a positive outlook for the NZDF, with a strengthening economy and a National government together with reforms resulting in savings being reinvested.

  • Raymond


    Andy – only, and only if, New Zealand becomes part of Australia! The chances of that happening are…?!

    The Australian Constitution actually has provision for NZ to be a state of Australia…

    The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (s. 6):

    “The States” shall mean such of the colonies of New South Wales, New Zealand, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, and South Australia…

  • George


    Raymond, I guess we’re going to have to agree to disagree with each other on this.

    Yes, the RNZAF do not have a combat air arm, yes, the RAAF does have a potent and highly professional combat air arm. That has never been in doubt, but as John N commented, look at the budget your military enjoy compared to ours.

    The NZDF would love to have even half of what Australia spend but our country cannot afford to do so and has budgeted accordingly.

    What do you mean by the NZDF is not pulling their weight as an ally? Just because we don’t have fast jets?? Do you feel that without them a country is not pulling it’s weight?

    Comparing New Zealand to Australia as equal military partners is impossible, we will never be able to match the power and size of your military. Well, not until you become our third island!!

    All branches of your military have a proud record when called upon to go into combat, as does New Zealand. Please don’t let the fact that the RNZDF do not have fast jets make you feel that we won’t be pulling our weight as an ally. We will.

    We may be smaller than you, but never, ever doubt our resolve to stand alongside you in times of need. You’re our mates, and that’s what mates do.

  • John N


    George / Raymond,

    Raymond, mate, although I agree with many of your thoughts and comments here on AA, I think you are wrong on this occasion, with all due respects too.

    Yes it’s easy to compare Australia to NZ, we spend a lot more in dollar terms and GDP too, but equally if you compare Australia to the USA, they spend a bucket load more in dollar terms and GDP too! We have a big population compared to our Kiwi cousins across the ditch, and equally the USA has a much bigger population than us, would it be fair for an American to say of Australia that we aren’t pulling our weight?

    Does that mean that compared to the USA, Australia is ineffective and incapable too? They have carriers and carrier air wings, we don’t, they have long range strike assets, we don’t any more, I could go on.

    I regularly talk to a number of Kiwi defence professionals (on another forum) and they lament the loss of their air combat force, equally the Australian defence professionals that I talk to regularly, lament the loss of HMAS Melbourne and our carrier air wing too, but we all have to move on and live with the ‘realities’ of our particular domestic political situations and sizes of our respective defence budgets too.

    The defence pie can only be sliced up in so many ways, if NZ wanted to restore a fast jet capability (and without a significant increase in dollars available), then that would cost another valuable capability, equally if Australia wanted a ‘proper’ carrier and carrier air wing, then either we spend a lot more or give up a valuable capability too.

    Having said all that, what do we ‘both’ do to assist and support each other in mutual security matters?

    As I mentioned above, both our countries are due to release Defence White Papers in the next 12 months or so, so maybe our respective politicians can get their heads together on that, really get their heads together too.

    Putting aside the lack of an air combat force in NZ (we have a growing and capable air combat force that should be capable of working for both of us), hopefully the Kiwi’s can find the dollars to replace their maritime and air transport squadrons with equipment (as mentioned above) that will complement and assist our assets in that area.

    Anyway, just my opinion is all!


    John N

  • Raymond



    I don’t disagree with most of what you’ve said at all. I am in no doubt as to the ability and willingness of the NZDF within their means either. We are ANZAC allies and brothers, have a long history of fighting alongside one another, and I have all due respect for NZ’s armed forces.

    It’s about funding. My point is not the total defence budget (of course NZ is smaller and cannot afford anywhere near as much). My beef is simply the amount as a percentage of GDP. 1% or 1.1% at the most is very low. Australia’s is currently 1.6% and this is the lowest since 1938! The current government has pledged to increase it back up to 2%, where it should be. Surely NZ could afford fast jets again if their defence budget was even just 1.6% of GDP too (that’s an extra 50% in funds), even if only some F-16’s on lease…

    Why do I say that NZ is not pulling their weight? Because of a lack of true force-multipliers in either the RNZAF or the RNZN suitable for combat in anything other than very small or low-scale conflicts. Yes, the lack of fast jets, which means that you are unfairly dependent on Australia (who else would NZ turn to?) The RNZN is also under-equipped, with only two frigates that could be classed as really suitable for combat operations (and even these have fallen far below the standard of the RAN’s ANZAC frigates). You have to admit that this is a far cry from the proud history of the NZDF.

    And, there’s more chance of NZ becoming a state of Australia than anything the other way around! Heck, even our constitution has provision for it! (See my previous post.) So when is NZ going to swallow their pride and join us?!

  • Raymond


    John N,

    Point taken. However, an air combat force should be a non-negotiable essential. NZ is not exempt and should have one, and if their funding was sufficient (nothing unrealistic but somewhere closer to a ‘normal’ GDP percentage of 1.5%) they would be able to afford it.

    Do you really think it’s right and fair to just say, well we don’t think we can afford air combat capability as we only want to spend a lousy 1 or 1.1% on defence – and depend on another country for your air power? Whether we have a growing and capable air combat force is not the point. NZ should be able to adequately defend themselves. Whether or not there is any ‘discernable’ threat is also not relevant; these sort of capabilities aren’t created overnight and by then it’s too late.

    Population really doesn’t have everything to do with it… otherwise Sweden with a population of just 9 million wouldn’t be able to have 80 Gripens (with more on order) AND have designed and manufactured them, as well as a navy that includes 5 submarines AND both designs and builds these too!

    At the end of the day, if NZ want a ‘real’ and capable air force with credibility, then they need an air combat element. If they reckon they can’t afford it then they need to increase spending, and with only 1.1% of GDP being spent on defence there are no excuses. Defence is the first priority of any government. Even the ‘deal of the century’ for 28 F-16’s wasn’t good enough.

    As I’ve already said, I’m not anti-Kiwi at all and only want them to re-establish something that should never have been taken away in the first place, allow them to enforce sovereignty in their own airspace (as any nation should be able to do), and give them the ability to contribute more to coalition operations. This will also give them more respect from other nations in the region when it comes to defence matters. As it currently stands, does NZ even have the ability to shoot down, say, a wayward airliner?

  • Fergo


    There’s no point in having an air combat force unless you’re going to do it properly – that means investing in a credible fleet of combat aircraft, weapons, advanced flying training and participating in bilateral and multilateral exercises. That would be seriously expensive – probably to the point where it would distort the defence budget unsustainably. Also, such a force would need either tanker support to get anywhere, or easy access to an ally’s tankers. Realistically, the only people who could compromise NZ sovereign airspace and mount a threat to NZ that would require a defence based around fighters with a genuine maritime strike and air superiority capability are ourselves, the Indians and the Americans. I don’t see a credible scenario where that sort of threat could emerge, quite honestly. That said, NZ should spend a bit more on defence. So should we, come to that.

  • Raymond



    1. One could hardly say that 22 F-16’s (which is the number that were going to be operational out of the 28 to be acquired by the RNZAF ~2001 before that deal was cancelled) is not a reasonably credible force or doing it ‘properly’. This ‘deal of the century’ was unbelievably good value and included much of the support and ancillary equipment you mention.

    2. The RNZAF did in the past with their A-4 Skyhawks, and would again should they ever resurrect their ACF, be able to participate in both bilateral exercises with the RAAF and multilateral exercises (e.g. FPDA).

    3. There would be no distortion if the defence budget were increased, which is the point I’ve been making all along – increase this from a lousy 1 or 1.1% of GDP to around 1.5% which is a perfectly reasonable amount for any nation to spend on defence (their government’s number one priority, or should be); this would be a 50% increase in funds which would surely be more than sufficient to cover the reinclusion of an ACF (and it probably wouldn’t even need to be as high as 1.5%).

    4. I don’t believe that NZ has ever had tankers, so why is this a factor now? The A-4’s did have buddy refuelling capability if I remember rightly. Tankers wouldn’t be needed for operations in and around NZ. Furthermore, coalition partners (e.g. the RAAF, USAF and RAF) have tankers.

    5. Anyone who argues that the lack of any apparent, immediate threat precludes the necessity of a viable defence force capable of actually mounting a credible defence is either dangerously foolish or has learnt absolutely nothing from history. Just how much advance warning do you expect to get, and just how much time do you think you need to stand up a force to IOC?

    So who exactly is responsible to defend NZ’s sovereign airspace at the moment from anything other than the most minor incidents? To whom will NZ go running to should they need air support? The RNZAF obviously doesn’t have the capability to do so. Is this left to the RAAF, already tasked with defending one of the largest countries on earth? And if so, is this fair? These are just naturally pertinent questions when a nation gives up an essential part of its ability to respond to security threats.

    Yes, I feel strongly about this, as almost every nation has some sort of ACF, especially a first world country with treaty obligations, and I believe that at the end of the day NZ is shirking responsibility in their own backyard while spending a pitifully low amount on defence, then using this lack of funding as an excuse to not be able to afford an ACF and expecting others to ‘pick up the tab’ should the undesirable (or unthinkable) happen.

  • John N



    I’m not making excuses for the low level of defence spending by our cousins across the ditch, not for one minute.

    The political situation in NZ has been vastly different in the past as compared to Australia, there has been a far greater gap in support of defence and defence spending by the more extreme Left, on the one side, and the Right side of NZ politics (it almost makes our two political parties appear to have been perfectly in sync on defence policy and funding!) And their economic situation had been pretty lousy too, but their economy seems to travelling pretty well at the moment, probably better than ours in some respect.

    So where are they at as at today?

    The current Conservative NZ government, as I mentioned above, will inject another $535m (the equivalent of $4.5B added to Australia’s defence budget) into NZ defence over the next four years.

    They just announced a $400+ million upgrade of the two ANZAC frigates, they recently ordered 11 T-6 advanced trainers, soon they will take delivery of 8 (+2 for spares) SH-2G(I) helicopters, in recent years the ancient helicopter force has been upgraded with NH-90’s and A109’s, they should also announced soon news of a replacement for the RNZN’s fleet tanker.

    After that they need to find enough money available to replace the P-3 and C-130 fleets, following that will be the replacement of the Anzac frigates and a more capable amphibious replacement for Canterbury, and there are other things that will eventually have to be replaced across their three services too.

    It’s going to take a lot of ‘extra’ money added to their defence budget to do all that I have mentioned above, eg, maintaining existing capabilities and not to go backwards (in fact I read an article a while ago where the NZ Government said there was a $4Billion shortfall for future capital equipment expenditure, a legacy of previous governments), and all of that has to be done ‘before’ they could even think about re-establishing an air combat force!

    To re-establish an air combat force would a gigantic task (apart from the large sum’s of money required), the ‘corporate’ knowledge has been lost, apart from purchasing an ‘appropriate’ fleet of combat aircraft, they would also have to re-establish a fast jet training fleet, weapons, spares, sufficient ground and aircrews, etc, etc, AND it would need bi-partisan agreement and support from the major political parties in NZ, and I can’t see that happening anytime soon. I’d put that in the same basket of ever seeing our politicians re-establishing fast jets for the RAN and a ‘purpose’ built carrier too.

    Comparing Sweden to NZ is like comparing apples to oranges, Sweden is a neutral country that has been right in the middle of opposing sides in WW1, WW2 and the Cold War too, due to it’s neutrality and geographical position it has had to maintain a strong defence force. New Zealand on the other hand sits basically at the bottom of the world far from anything with a big giant continent, Australia, sitting between it and Asia.

    Of course NZ should spend more on Defence and enhance it’s capabilities, and especially capabilities that will assist both of us, but a NZ air combat force is, I believe, a thing of the distant past.

    Raymond, I know you think it can be seen as unfair that we may carry the air combat burden for both our nations, but equally it can be said that we have underspent for many a decade because we also rely on our ‘big brother’ the USA, it’s all relative at the end of the day.

    The point you made about NZ being incapable of dealing with a ‘wayward airliner’, is true, but it’s no different to what happened in the US on 11 September 2001, even with the ‘might’ and size of the US air combat forces, there was nothing they could do to be prepared for what happened on that day.

    I respect you opinion on this, but mine is a bit different.


    John N

  • George


    Phew Raymond, we’re now moving into the political and economic field with this lol.

    It’s basically a matter of NZ cutting it’s coat according to it’s cloth.

    As with Australia, and please correct me if I’m wrong here, but my understanding is that all military spending in any country is ultimately a political decision. The military, like all other areas of government spending have to propose an annual budget and business plans for big ticket items and present it to the government of the day for ratification and if the government doesn’t think it affordable or necessary it doesn’t happen.

    Each government since the demise of our fast jet combat capabilities have made no moves to reinstate one and don’t look likely to. Even though I personally don’t agree with that, looking at it from a pragmatic view it makes sense here in the present economic climate. To reinstate a fast jet capability would mean massive set up costs. Look at the US and the cuts to their defence budgets.

    We would be far better moving in the direction that John N suggested in his first post of this discussion. Modernise, and (hopefully) increase our maritime and transport assets for better interoperability, not only with
    Australia but also the US.

    You mentioned Sweden. Yes, they do have a modern combat force but they have also have a long engineering history and expertise of operating large international organisations that forms a large part of their economy, NZ doesn’t. It wouldn’t make financial sense to design and manufacture fast jet aircraft or submarines here, so in that respect we are no different to Australia.

    One final comment in this epistle – “As it currently stands NZ doesn’t even have the ability to shoot down, say, a wayward airliner”. No, we don’t. Luckily for us I guess no one considers us that much of a threat to take that kind of action against us. Even if we had that capability would it honestly serve any practical use? Look how long it took the US authorities to react to the events of 9/11.

    Oops, one other final comment! Just read your comments Fergo – what about the Chinese as a threat, not only to us but to Australia as well? I think they would be a more realistic threat than the Indian navy. Now that might open up another discussion all by itself!

    Boy, it would be interesting sitting down with a cold beer and and discuss all this stuff with you guys – a Speights or Cascade draught for me please!

  • George


    John N, I’d just pushed the button to send off my last post and saw the one you’ve added – you been reading my mind??!!. I think you must have a better grasp of our political scene than most of our politicians!!

    Your description of NZ sitting at the bottom of the world made me grin, much more subtle than how I would have described it! Cheers mate.

  • John N


    George, mate!

    When I said the bottom of the world, I was referring to your ‘geographical’ location, really! Truly I was!! (I could have started with my long list of Kiwi jokes, but I better not go there…. ha ha!)

    Yes the political scene, and divergent views, in your country is pretty extreme (compared to Australia) to say the least, it was something that I didn’t realised until a while back when I did a bit of reading on NZ politics and political parties, and boy was it an eye opener!

    Back on the subject of a NZ air combat force, or lack of! I don’t think anyone here would disagree that it was an unpopular and unpleasant decision made, but here in the ‘real’ world of today, the reality is that it was made and it is done and dusted and is now past history, for NZ to go back to having an air combat force now, is a mountain too hard to climb for a whole range of reasons.

    So to be the best neighbour that you guys can possibly be, in support of our mutual security goals, in my opinion it is a ‘must’ that NZ should properly fund all the capabilities that I mentioned above, and provide assets to the best of its capabilities that will assist in future operations, be that coalition operations on a larger scale, or just NZ and Australia, that’s probably (realistically) is the best that we can all hope for, agree?

    One last thing (and I hope our good friends here at AA don’t mind me mentioning), George, if you are interested in defence matters, especially NZ defence matters, have a look at a defence forum that I participate in, it has some pretty high level defence discussions, have a look at (google) “Defence Talk” or go to http://www.defencetalk.com there are a number of NZ defence professionals who contribute regularly to the various NZ defence topics, I think you would find it very interesting.


    John N

  • ngatimozart


    The RNZAF ACF and lack of it raises its head again. Ok we all know why it was deleted and the real reason, not the pathetic reason given. However in that pathetic reason there is some truth. With the Defence budget decreed by the politicians of both stripes the acquisition and operation of the F16s endangered the M113 APC replacement and the acquisition of the MRV Canterbury plus further down the UH1H Iroquois and Bell 47G replacement. I didn’t agree with ACF disbandment, still don’t but on pragmatic and realistic grounds that disbandment enabled more capabilities plural to be added and replaced. Finally on that subject and to be brutal, it happened 13 years ago build a bridge and get over it. We have to deal in the present, with what we are given by a duly elected govt and not in the past.

    However it is very important that we learn from mistakes we make and have made. At the present point in time and for the foreseeable future, an ACF in Kiwi colours is not going to happen because there is no political will to go down that road. This will only change if the pollies are given a major fright and by then that’ll be to late. At present to stand up a RNZAF ACF based on 28 Gripen and 16 KAI T50 trainers the cost would be around NZ$4 – 4.5 billion which is more than the current NZDF annual budget. I agree that 1- 1.2% of GDP spent on defence is poor and I am of the view that 2% GDP should be the figure. So what capabilities do we give up? The Naval Combat Force? The Army? NZDF has been run down for the last 35 – 40 years by the pollies and the halcyon days of 2% GDP being spent on defence are long gone in NZ. Therefore we have to make do with what we have and each time work on the pollies to gain increases. That’s the realities. Are we learning from our mistakes? NZDF are but the pollies aren’t.

  • Roy


    Combat jets for what exactly? Timor? nope, Solomons? Nope, Afghan? nope, NZ? nope. Having jets to fly around the country for years and years(and years) waiting for WWIII is also not a good enough reason and frankly a waste of resources that could actually be put to tangible use. Times have changed mate but you enjoy your billion dollar F-35s never the less.

  • George


    John N, wanted to thank you for your information about the link you mentioned. I took a look and will bookmark it. Sorry for the delay with the thanks but I’ve been away.

    Raymond, thank you as well for starting an interesting discussion, even if we do disagree with each other, but that’s the whole point of discussion isn’t it, for everyone to voice their opinion. Be utterly boring if everyone agreed all the time.

    Cheers, and keep the beer cold in case we ever meet!

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