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Review of the Options for an Air Combat Capability
(February 2001)

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Description of the Options

Option 1 – Retain Current Level of Capability

  1. This option would preserve the current capability to deploy and sustain an operational force of 10 aircraft. Training support for the ADF under the ENA could continue as long as required. When the ENA commitment ends, No. 2 Squadron would return to New Zealand and be absorbed into No. 75 Squadron. The A-4s would be brought up to the minimum necessary level of capability. When the A-4s reached the end of their life, they would be replaced, most likely by used aircraft.
  2. The A-4s would be replaced when they reach the end of their life. The Whineray report stated that 24 airframes should be acquired to maintain an operational level of capability through the airframe's expected life. A lesser number could be acquired if the consequential risks were considered acceptable. The primary risks are associated with an eventual inability to sustain an operational force because of the loss of aircraft over time. According to the Whineray Report, the minimum number that should be acquired is 18. Costings for both 24 and 18 replacement aircraft have been done.

Option 2 – Retain a Reduced Level of Capability

  1. This option would preserve an air combat capability as part of the NZDF. No. 2 Squadron would disband at the expiry of the ENA. No. 75 Squadron would progressively be reduced to 14 aircraft. The remaining A-4s would be used for parts. When the A-4s reached the end of their life they would be replaced, most likely by used aircraft. There would be a limited capacity to deploy an operational force, although it could not be sustained for a prolonged period. Personnel levels would be reduced by about 340.
  2. An air combat training capacity would not be retained in New Zealand. The Aermacchis would be disposed of and this training would be purchased from another country, possibly Australia, Singapore or Canada. For example, the Australians have recently indicated they could accommodate a small number of New Zealand pilots in their training programme.
  3. There may be a case to retain a reduced air combat flying training capacity in conjunction with a smaller air combat force. The case would be based on the need to provide an indigenous capacity to build up an air combat capability in response to future security challenges. A reduced air combat flying capability would require nine of the 17 Aermacchis to be retained. This variation of Option 2 has not been costed.

Option 3 – Disband the Air Combat Force

  1. Option 3A

    The air combat force would disband as soon as practicable. No. 2 Squadron would disband in October 2001, at the end of the six months notice required by the ENA. No. 75 Squadron would reduce operations immediately to that required to sustain No. 2 Squadron, and all other air combat force commitments would be cancelled. No. 14 Squadron would continue until the end of 2001 to enable present students to graduate.
  2. Option 3B

    The air combat force would disband when the ENA is terminated. No. 75 Squadron would reduce operations immediately to that required to sustain No. 2 Squadron, and all other air combat force commitments would be cancelled. No. 14 Squadron would continue until the end of 2001 to enable present students to graduate.
  3. In the view of HQ NZDF and Treasury, a conservative estimate of personnel reductions associated with disbanding the air combat force is around 700. Further cost reductions may be possible later in the ten year period once the RNZAF has adjusted to the elimination of a major capability. The RNZAF's view is that this level of personnel reductions is overstated. The Air Force is concerned that a reduction of this magnitude might not leave sufficient personnel to deploy and sustain the remaining force elements. There was insufficient time to undertake further analysis to verify the impact on personnel numbers of disbanding the air combat force. The costings in the financial section of this review are based on a reduction of 700 personnel. If this option was adopted, further detailed analysis will be required on the change in personnel requirements.
  4. The NZDF does not have a redundancy provision for military personnel so it would it take a number of years to reduce personnel levels, based on the present attrition rate of 9%. This timeframe could be accelerated if a redundancy package was created for military personnel.
  5. Under Option 3 there would be a case for consolidating the Air Force at one base in the North Island, closing either Whenuapai or Ohakea. From an operational perspective the NZDF's preference would be to retain Ohakea, but more detailed analysis would be required to determine the best option. There would be relocation costs associated with reducing to one base.

Decision Paths for the Air Combat Force

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