Minister announces $20bn defence plan

New Zealand's defence plans out to 2030 include replacing the two Anzac-class frigates, adding transport aircraft, the possible replacement of armoured vehicles, new inshore capabilities, and a spruce-up for camps and bases.

Gerry Brownlee.
Gerry Brownlee.

The Defence Capability Plan 2016, detailing $20 billion of military investment through until 2030 was released by Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee at the Defence Industry Association's annual forum in Auckland on Wednesday. The plan follows the release in June of the government's second defence white paper.

In a speech to the forum, Mr Brownlee said New Zealand's defence capabilities and budget had to allow for increased interest in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean fisheries, increasing demand for air surveillance, better cyber protection and intelligence support. The plan also includes a $1.7 billion modernisation of the defence estate, "while retaining a presence in all current camps and bases".

The Government has planned annual increases in Defence Force operating and capital budgets sufficient to maintain defence spending at about 1 percent of gross domestic product, including $300 million of extra operating spending over the next four years that was announced in this year's budget.

"While we do not face a direct military threat in the foreseeable future, the rules-based international order which New Zealand relies upon as a small country is under greater pressure," Mr Brownlee said. "We therefore need a Defence Force that can protect New Zealand and also contribute to international security."

The Anzac frigates are being upgraded over the next four years but ultimately will be replaced by "modern combat vessels" able to foot it in the late 2020s and early 2030s. Mr Brownlee said that decision "is likely to be the most significant and challenging capability choice facing future governments in the next 15 years. Initial consideration of options is to be done before 2020."

The New Zealand Navy has two offshore and four inshore patrol vessels. It will add a third offshore vessel that will be ice-strengthened and winterised, according to the plan. It will also replace its fleet tanker HMNZS Endeavour with a new tanker to be built by Hyundai Heavy Industries, which will also be ice-strengthened.

It has a tender out for a new littoral operations vessel, which will have diving, hydrographic and mine counter-measure capacity.

Soldiers are being upgraded with the new standard issue modular assault rifle from Lewis Machine & Tool Co, replacing the Steyr AUG. Soldiers will be outfitted with new night vision equipment on a rolling basis through to 2030, along with technology to detect and counter improvised explosive devices.

Mr Brownlee said the Army would also review its Pinzgauer and NZLAV armoured vehicles to decide whether they should be modernised or replaced. More investment would be made in the Special Air Service, including specialised weapons and equipment.

In the air, the workhorse C-130 Hercules and Boeing 757s would be retired and replaced in the early-to-mid 2020s, while the recently upgraded P-3 Orion surveillance and reconnaissance fleet is also due to retire by 2030.

Police and protestors clashed at the forum on Wednesday in Auckland. New York Stock Exchange-listed Lockheed Martin, whose products include the Black Hawk helicopter, the F-16 and the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, is again principal sponsor for the event.

Lockheed is what is known as a prime contractor to the military, winning major contracts which it then turns to the local industry to help fill. Much of that work is won by Lockheed's mission systems and training division, maintenance and overhaul divisions.

The spending plan coincides with this week's major earthquake, which has rendered the Wellington headquarters of the New Zealand Defence Force uninhabitable, meaning that for the meantime, head office military staff are working from home until new temporary accommodation is found while the nine-year-old headquarters is repaired.

 - BusinessDesk

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