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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Royal New Zealand Air Force To Replace Bell 47s With A109s

MILITARY | TRAINING

The Royal New Zealand Air Force has picked AgustaWestland’s A109 to replace its fleet of Korean War-era Bell Helicopter Sioux trainers and light utility helicopters.

The acquisition includes a simulator for training on the A109LUH (NZ), a variant of the militarized A109 AgustaWestland also has sold to Malaysia, Sweden and South Africa. The deal is valued at $106 million (€68.5 million).

"The contract for five A109LUH (NZ) and a simulator will see RNZAF rotary-wing training capabilities become world-class," the chief of the air force, Air Vice-Marshal Graham Lintott, said in a prepared statement.

The new aircraft will support air force training of crews for the eight NH Industries NH90s it is ordered in 2006 to replace its Bell UH-1 Iroquois fleet. In addition, Defence Minister Phil Goff told Parliament, the A109s "can be used for counterterrorism, search and rescue, deployment of forces, and disaster relief." The aircraft "flies twice as fast for twice the distance" as the Sioux, a version of Bell’s Model 47, or H-13, Goff said. It also can carry under-slung loads of up to 1,100 lb (500 kg).

New Zealand was looking for something more economical and more suitable for EMS work in small areas, with a lower downdraft for the smaller and water operations in emergency situations. The A109s are to enter service in 2011 and will operate from RNZAF Base Ohakea, about 55 nm (100 km) northeast of Wellington on New Zealand’s North Island. The Royal Australian Navy in March selected the A109 Power to train for crews transitioning from the Eurocopter AS350 to the Sikorsky H-3 Sea King. — Barney O’Shea

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