New Zealand selected the Beechcraft T-6C trainer as its newest asset. A deal was signed on 24 January 2014 at the New Zealand Defence House in Wellington, according to the US Embassy there. A total of 11 aircraft are on order.
Two T-6Cs are planned to arrive already this year and will be the country’s most manoeuverable fixed-wing aircraft, that could in theory could be modified for light attack roles. The Pacific country doesn’t have any close air support or fighter aircraft since it retired its last of the 18 Aermacchi MB-339s in 2001.
For training purposes the New Zealand Air Force operates 13 leased Pacific Aerospace Limited (PACL) CT-4E Airtrainers at Ohakea, which came into service in 1998. The low-key aircraft also equip the country’s official aerobatic display team, the Red Checkers.
Four Beechcraft Beech King Air 200s are flown by 42 Squadron, also at Ohakea, for training and light transport purposes. According to the US embassy the new T-6Cs will replace those Beech 200s, meaning the RNZAF will loose some light transport capabilities if it’s true.
Six large Lockheed P-3K/P-3K2 Orion maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft at Whenuapai (Auckland) are currently the RNZAF’s only fixed-wing assets with somewhat offensive capabilities against targets at sea or below the water.
For operations on land the country has to rely on support of helicopters and transport aircraft only. The first being five AgustaWestland A109 LUHs, eight incoming NH Industries NH90s and 10 Bell UH-1H Iroquois. The latter being two Boeing 757-200s and five Lockheed C-130Hs, plus the four Beech 200s.
The New Zealand order is a small success for the struggling military division of the Hawker Beechcraft company that is being bought by Cessna’s parent company Textron. In October 2013 the Mexican military ordered six additional T-6C+, an advanced version of the T-6 the Fuerza Aérea Mexicana (FAM) uses to replace its aging Pilatus PC-7s. The FAM initially ordered six T-6C+s in 2012.
Different from the basic C-version ordered by New Zealand, the Mexican T-6C+s are build from the start to carry weapons at external stores. They can be actively deployed in the ground support role or for weapon training purposes.
The people at the Beechcraft factory in Wichita, Kansas, also hope they can find customers for the company’s AT-6 dedicated light attack aircraft.
© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Marcel Burger with source information from the US Embassy in New Zealand and Beechcraft