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RNZAF Orions a great platform for fisheries patrols

A RNZAF P-3K2 Orion aircraft deployed to Hawaii for Exercise RIMPAC

by Luz Baguioro, Public Affairs Manager, Joint Forces New Zealand

Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Jason Skeggs, P-3K2 Orion staff officer in the Joint Air Operations Centre at Headquarters Joint Forces New Zealand, said the patrols covered the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of several countries including Kiribati, Niue, Samoa, Tokelau and Tonga. Information gathered from these patrols has been passed on to the Pacific Island countries and the Forum Fisheries Agency.

 “By conducting these patrols, we support the Pacificwide campaign to improve compliance with existing laws and regulations and provide direct support to Pacific nations,” FLTLT Skeggs said. 

Further patrols by the Orion are being planned for the rest of the year, either alone or in tandem with vessels from the NZDF or Pacific Island countries. 

On average, the RNZAF Orions conduct up to 250 hours of surveillance patrols in the south-west Pacific and more than 200 hours in New Zealand’s EEZ annually. The patrols are conducted in support of Pacific Island countries and in collaboration with New Zealand agencies, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), and the National Maritime Coordination Centre.

 “The Orion provides a great platform for being able to locate fishing vessels and determine their activities across inshore high seas not only within the New Zealand EEZ but also in the Southern and Pacific oceans,” MPI Manager for Compliance Operations Gary Orr said. 

With their unique long-range air capability, “the aircraft provides MPI with the ability to respond quickly to any detected activity of interest”. 

“The Orion is able to provide forward air support to New Zealand and other nations’ surface assets like the New Zealand offshore patrol vessels and the Pacific patrol boats. This support provides these assets situational awareness of their area of operation so they can prioritise boarding and  inspection operations in a more efficient manner,” Mr Orr said. 

In 2014 and 2015, when two Russian-flagged fishing vessels AURORA and MYS MARII, were suspected of fishing on the Louisville Ridge in the south-west Pacific Ocean, an RNZAF Orion was dispatched to gather evidence of their activities. This resulted in the two vessels being listed for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing by the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation. 

“At the time of the listing, our international partners commended New Zealand on the high quality of the evidence collected. This left no room for the flag state to question the evidence that resulted in the IUU listing,” Mr Orr said. 

For several years, the NZDF has been deploying its ships and aircraft to conduct maritime patrols to assist south Pacific Island countries in protecting their fishery resources. Offshore patrol vessels HMNZS OTAGO and WELLINGTON conducted fisheries patrols in the south-west Pacific from June to August this year.

The Royal New Zealand Air Force’s (RNZAF) P-3K2 Orion surveillance aircraft conducted fisheries patrols in several south-west Pacific countries recently, further cementing their crucial role in these operations

The world’s largest international maritime exercise finished last month and has been hailed as a roaring success. Twenty-six nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel participated in Rim of the Pacific 2016 (RIMPAC) – more countries and personnel than in any previous years.

“RIMPAC 2016 was an unqualified success,” said Vice Admiral Nora Tyson, commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet. “The collaboration and cohesiveness between participants proved that we can operate effectively with our partner nations and that we will be ready in the Pacific if or when we’re called upon.”

To safely and effectively execute an exercise of this scale and scope was a tribute to the leadership and skill of every participating unit, she said. “I could not be more proud of everyone who took part, and I value the friendships that we built.” 

Commanding Officer of No. 5 Squadron, Wing Commander (WGCDR) DJ Hunt, said there were tangible benefits from participating in such a huge exercise. “However, there are some intangible benefits we often forget,” he said.

“At the squadron level it allows plenty of opportunities to engage with like-minded operators from a myriad of nations. The aircrew is able to discuss tactics and procedures with other nations as well as interact with them within a war-like scenario or mission. This is an excellent way to increase their tactical level knowledge and understanding as well as develop relationships with other airborne surveillance and reconnaissance operators.”

The maintenance team also had the opportunity to work alongside other P-3 engineers and discuss how they would go about their business as well as offer and receive advice on unserviceabilities, WGCDR Hunt said.

The Mission Support team learned how to integrate within a multi-national Tactical Operations Centre, and gained great insight into how to best support the aircrew and provide them with the information they required to be successful with the mission.

“For me personally, it is rare to have so many COs of similar squadrons in the same place with time to discuss challenges, successes and system capability. You are also able to make personal connections with these individuals, something that is really useful for future exercises and operations together,” WGCDR Hunt said.

Air Component Commander Air Commodore (AIRCDRE) Darryn Webb said Output Five operations and specifically the ability to project air power was a key role for all RNZAF Squadrons.

“An exercise such as RIMPAC where we demonstrate our ability to deploy two aircraft and two aircrews plus all the support personnel and equipment required to effectively conduct our combat roles is a great way to identify our strengths and weaknesses, AIRCDRE Webb said. “These can then be fed into our continuous improvement cycle and ensure we are as prepared as we can be for future operational deployments.”

Being able to conduct a deployment to RIMPAC with effectively twice the number of personnel and resources as we did for the previous TAKAPU rotations and have it run pretty smoothly from end to end was a good indicator of where the Airborne Surveillance and Response Force capability sits, AIRCDRE Webb said.

“This, coupled with the successes we had in the air and during our missions, shows the P-3K2 scrubs up pretty well when benchmarked against other nations.”

Australian Aviation News Item

The New Zealand Ministry of Defence has awarded Boeing a US$21.4 million contract to upgrade the fleet of six P-3K2 Orion aircraft with an undersea acoustics and intelligence technology that is intended to enable the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) to more effectively find, monitor and deter submarine threats. Boeing stated that it is currently supplying a similar system to the US Navy and the Indian Navy, and will soon install the system on Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P-8A Poseidon maritime intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and response aircraft. Boeing will develop, install and test the new acoustic processing capability for the RNZAF, and will provide associated airborne, ground and classroom training, and spares and maintenance support. Boeing Defence Australia will provide through-life support, which will continue on a year-to-year basis until the aircraft are retired. Suppliers include Safe Air, Beca and Marops, and Sonartech Atlas. Development work will be performed in the US, with integration and testing in New Zealand.

Chairman’s Message to 2016 AGM

The 5 Squadron Association Trophy 

was presented to

SQNLDR Mark Whiteside by Gordon Ragg February 2016


The award includes a printed copy of the citation and an inscribed plaque to be retained by the recipient. 

5 Squadron RNZAF Association Trophy Recipients

RNZAF Capability Development

RNZAF Projects

Air Capability development and delivery is the responsibility of the Assistant Chief Capability, HQNZDF. This includes the Introduction into Service of new and upgraded aircraft.

The Defence White Paper, released in June 2016, sets out the Government’s expectations for Defence over the coming decades. The White Paper provides Defence with the direction it needs to be able to effectively prioritise the roles and tasks it undertakes, both at home and overseas, and guide the modernisation of many of the Defence Force’s military capabilities.

Current projects:

  • P-3K2 Orion upgrade - The P-3K2 Orion surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft provide a wide area surveillance capability critical to maintaining awareness of New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone and the Southern Ocean and the South Pacific. They also enable the Government to continue to offer a highly valued capability to international coalition operations. Work is currently underway to upgrade the Orions' underwater intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities, with the entire capability scheduled for replacement in the mid-2020s.


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