Wednesday, October 26, 2011

RNZAF P-3 Fleet Status/Partnering With Other Government Agencies

What is one of the only countries that can get away with talking about World Cup rugby during the IOSC? New Zealand, of course.

Flt. Lt. Steve Owen from the Royal New Zealand Air Force's (RNZAF) Directorate of Continued Airworthiness Management gave an overview of New Zealand's P-3 fleet. The RNZAF has five P-3Ks and one P-3K2, which is the fleet's recently enhanced P-3. All of the RNZAF P-3s (which have been operation since 1966) will eventually be upgraded to P-3K2s.

The P-3 is vital to the RNZAF because 99 percent of the country's trade is maritime-related. In addition, the RNZAF is often charged with supporting non-military missions that are vital to the country's security and safety. Loosely translated, the Kiwi fleet needs to be flying at optimal levels at all times.The RNZAF is focused on enhancing its fleet's technology (its P-3K2s feature upgraded electronics, including new systems for the cockpit, tac-rail workstations); fleet management; radomes (dealing with moisture issues that have limited solutions and the current one is timely as it requires the radome to come off the aircraft to dry-off); and obsolescence (part maintenance, diminishing supply chain), among other things.

"We have a 'Kiwi-can-do attitude," Owen said, explaining the RNZAF team always finds a way to make its P-3s work.

Warrant Officer Glen Moratti followed Owen to discuss the RNZAF's partnerships with other countries to upgrade its P-3s. In 2001, the future of the RNZAF P-3 fleet was in doubt. In 2004, a team took the "whole government" approach to maintain its P-3 fleet. It compared the military requirements and civilian requirements, to show how much value this aircraft provides to New Zealand's citizens. Turns out, the civilian requirements outweighed the military requirements. Hence, Project Guardian was born.

There are nine governmental agencies that support Project Guardian, which oversees the upgrade of the RNZAF P-3 fleet. New Zealand's sovereignty and security is paramount for all partner agencies. The P-3 helps these organizations enforce laws and protect the country's borders and industries (from illegal fishing to illegal movement of goods).

How do they do it? Surveillance takes up a bulk of the P-3 fleet's responsibilities, but the fleet also protects natural resources, supports anti-maritime pollution activities (oil spills), aids in disaster missions (recent support of 2011 floods in Christ Church) and border protection.

All of these missions offer the RNZAF P-3 team an opportunity to enhance its skills and broaden the visibility of the aircraft. These missions, however, are sometimes a drain on resources -- physical and financial. In the last three months, New Zealand's P-3 supported 15 missions that equaled 65 flight hours. The fleet is only budgeted to support 1,400 flight hours in 2011. There's a real chance the P-3 team may exceed its limit supporting non-military missions this year.

"We're no longer maritime; we're everything," Moratti said, adding that the RNZAF will go back to its customers to seek additional support as the need for the country's P-3s increase.

For more information on the RNZAF P-3 upgrades, please visit:

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