No flying visit: Defence Force disputes Japan report
The Defence Force has shot down a report that Japan and US company Boeing are in a ‘‘one-on-one fight’’ to supply maritime patrol aircraft worth more than $1 billion to the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
The Government confirmed in November that it planned to replace its fleet of six Orion maritime patrol aircraft, five Hercules transporters and two Boeing 757s within about the next 10 years.
Japan’s Nikkei Asian Review reported New Zealand would decide on replacement aircraft as ‘‘early as this [northern] summer’’.
Representatives from the Japanese Defence Ministry and Kawasaki Heavy Industries visited Wellington last week to negotiate the sale of Kawasaki’s P-1 patrol aircraft and C-2 transporters in what would be Japan’s biggestever arms export deal, it said.
But Defence Force spokesmen said it had not received such a visit and was ‘‘not involved in any negotiations with the Japanese Government or Kawasaki Heavy Industries’’.
The spokesmen indicated there would be no decision on replacement aircraft this year.
‘‘A large number of possible suppliers from several countries have responded to the initial requests for information issued last year, and the Defence Ministry expects to get a decision from the Government on preferred options and call for tenders in mid-2018,’’ one said.
The Japanese report quoted an unnamed Japanese defence official as having said that the contract to replace the Orions would be a straight competition between Kawasaki and Boeing, which is pitching its P-8 patrol aircraft.
But the report said several companies, including Europe’s Airbus, were competing for the transporter contract.
Kawasaki’s P-1 aircraft – which cost about US$140 million (NZ$200m) – are designed to hunt submarines and surface vessels. Buying the patrol aircraft as well as the transporters from Kawasaki could save money as they shared some parts, the report said.
The Japanese Government would negotiate a treaty to share defence technology with New Zealand and Kawasaki would consider jointly producing some parts of the planes here, the report said.
Both Kawasaki’s four-engine P-1s and Boeing’s twin-engine P-8 aircraft can carry bombs, torpedoes, mines and air-to-surface missiles, such as the US-made Harpoon missile.
Kawasaki’s P-1 aircraft can carry torpedoes and sea-skimming missiles – but New Zealand is ‘‘not involved in any negotiations’’ with the Japanese company.