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First of New Zealand air force new helicopter fleet arrives

(Xinhua)

09:57, December 06, 2011

WELLINGTON, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand's air force began a "quantum leap" in its capabilities Tuesday with the arrival of the its first new French-made NH90 helicopters.

Two new NH90s the first of eight on order arrived aboard an Antonov AN 124 transport aircraft, said Defence Minister Wayne Mapp.

"These helicopters will provide a quantum leap in capability for the RNZAF," said Mapp in a statement.

"The NH90s will give the NZDF better capability to conduct military, counter-terrorism, disaster relief, search and rescue, and other operations."

The NH90s had more than triple the power of the Royal New Zealand Air Force's (RNZAF) current Vietnam War-era Iroquois helicopters and could carry more than double the payload further and faster.

Its twin engines would enable it to operate safely from and increase the versatility of the navy's sealift and amphibious support vessel, HMNZS Canterbury, said Mapp.

The Canterbury is capable of carrying four NH90s for deployment ashore in support of army operations and to help with relief activities.

"The Iroquois has been a fantastic workhorse for over 40 years, but they are overdue for replacement," said Mapp.

The other six NH90s would be progressively delivered from next year as part of the contract worth 771 million NZ dollars (601.38 million U.S. dollars).

They are part of a comprehensive modernization of the RNZAF's helicopters, which include five new A109 helicopters delivered earlier this year to replace the old Sioux helicopters.

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