Underwater capabilities to be enhanced
In November 2014 the Ministry of Defence (MoD) sought responses to an Invitation to Register to become a tenderer for the supply and support of the underwater intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (UWISR) capability project for the P-3K2 Orion fleet.
Companies approved to receive the closed competitive request for tender (CCRT) received this documentation in March last year. Upon completion of tender evaluations, Boeing has been selected as the preferred tenderer. Subject to the MoD undertaking a due diligence activity and negotiation of a contract package, New Zealand government approval was then sought to proceed to award a contract.
This has finally come about with the MoD awarding Boeing a $US21.4m ($29.25m) contract on 24 August to upgrade its fleet of six P-3K2 Orions with an undersea acoustics and intelligence technology enabling the RNZAF to more effectively find, monitor and deter submarine threats.
The RNZAF took delivery of five P-3B Orions (NZ4201–4205) in 1966, followed in 1985 by an ex-RAAF P-3B (NZ4206). All six Orions were upgraded (avionics and radio systems) under Project Rigel, following which they were designated P-3K. After a further upgrade programme they are now P-3K2s.
This upgrade included the flight deck being provided with glass instrumentation and navigation computer automation. The tactical rail (Tacrail) has been completely refitted with modern sensors, communication and data management systems and navigation systems.
Boeing currently supplies a similar system to the US Navy and Indian Navy for their Boeing P-8A Poseidons and P-8Is and will install the system on the soon-to-be-delivered RAAF P-8As.
The Boeing acoustics system processes and displays signals from deployed sonobuoys, allowing personnel to precisely detect and track submarines. 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.
Company subsidiary Boeing Defence Australia will provide integrated logistics support which will continue on a year-to-year basis until the aircraft are retired. Suppliers include New Zealand companies Safe Air, Beca and Marops, plus Sonartech Atlas of Australia. Development work will be performed in the USA with integration and testing in New Zealand.
Chief of Air Force AVM Tony Davies says, “Anti-submarine warfare is a key part of the New Zealand Defence Force’s combat capability, and this upgrade will ensure that the P-3K2 remains credible and valued by our partners as the Defence Force’s only asset capable of wide-area underwater surveillance.”
- Report by John King.
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