The Air Force's newest helicopter, the NH90, has successfully completed its first landing on the Navy's multi-role vessel, HMNZS CANTERBURY.
The interface trial is the first stage of a process intended to integrate helicopter and ship operations - an important step towards the New Zealand Defence Force goal of establishing a Joint Amphibious Task Force (JATF) by 2015. While the JATF will be structured for the deployment of combat forces, the most likely contingencies it will be used for are disaster relief and conducting exercises in our region in support of nation building.
"The NH90 is a complex helicopter with significant capability and sophisticated systems and it will form an important part of the Defence Force's new Joint Amphibious Task Force," said Air Vice-Marshal Peter Stockwell, Chief of Air Force.
"When fully operational the NH90 will provide valuable support to the New Zealand Army, and Royal New Zealand Navy, as well as other Government agencies. It will vastly improve the Air Force's capability to conduct military, disaster relief, search and rescue and general helicopter support operations."
Chief of Navy, Rear-Admiral Tony Parr, says the aim of the trial is to begin proving the Defence Force's ability to land, stow and then re-launch the helicopter from the CANTERBURY.
"It's no easy task to safely land a large helicopter on a ship," he says. "Once we've established this capability the Navy will be able to transport the NH90s around New Zealand, the Pacific and further afield as necessary for military, disaster relief or other operational taskings."
Up to four NH90 helicopters will be able to be stowed in the ship's hangar. As a result of the first trial, any alterations required to the ship's aviation facilities to support NH90 operations will be identified and adjusted during the ship's scheduled maintenance programme. The second stage (planned for mid-late next year) will be conducted to determine the safe operating limits for the NH90 when operating from HMNZS CANTERBURY.
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