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Govt close to deal on air force Hercules upgrades

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Wayne Mapp
Wayne Mapp

Wellington, July 22 NZPA - The Government is close to finalising a deal which would put the delayed upgrade of air force C130 Hercules aircraft back on track and in its own hands.

United States company L-3 Communications has been tasked with the upgrades, which are still not complete despite the $226 million contract being ticked off over five years ago.

While the air force has had two of the aircraft back, equipment software and contractual problems have dogged the project and three aircraft are yet to be upgraded to the standards expected.

Air New Zealand subsidiary Safe Air was sub-contracted to do some of the work, but with aircraft not being sent to the company's Blenheim base from the United States when expected it led to job lay-offs and continued difficulties for the air force.

Radio New Zealand reported today that the Ministry of Defence was in advanced discussions with L-3 about getting the Government to take over the contract. That involved getting agreement on the amount of money which should be deducted from the original contract price and the ministry was hopeful such details would be ironed out soon and work on the three aircraft currently out of commission could continue in New Zealand next year.

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said the air force had been forced to juggle its operations to skirt around the problem.

"It has been a huge effort for them to be able to manage what is literally a global transport chain out of three C130 Hercules plus the two Boeing 757s. That has been an enormous challenge and people have had to work extremely hard to keep those aircraft flying -- and bear in mind their age."

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