RNZAF Orion NZ4201 seen overhead Whenuapai on 30 March 2012 (Image © New Zealand Defence Force)

New Zealand Orion back in Fiji defence

New Zealand has re-established its defence cooperation with neighbouring Fiji. For the first time in almost a decade a Royal New Zealand Air Force aircraft, a Lockheed P-3K2 Orion in this case, patrolled the Fiji exclusive economic zone, Radio New Zealand reports.

Fiji Commodore Frank Bainimarama overthrew the legitimate government in the capital of Suva in December 2006, by announcing he took control, launching “military exercises” around Suva and taking control of the weaponry of the Fujian police. The army then took control of other government buildings and took over the parliament while it was in session to condemn the coup. It prompted nations like New Zealand to cut the ties with Fiji, a nation of 332 islands.

Related story: ↑ New Zealand Orion update nears completion

Restart
Democratic elections were held in Fuji in September 2014. Bainimarama won these elections, considered fair by international observers. The former military strongman is now a democratic elected leader and therefore New Zealand sees good reason to restart its military cooperation with its neighbour.

RFMF Air Wing
The Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) exist of only a land forces and navy element, with 3,500 troops on strength. The Air Wing of two helicopters was disbanded in 1997, after a decade of operations. Its Aérospatiale AS365N2 Dauphin crashed in July 1994, its Aérospatiale AS355F2 was sold to France in 1999.

Laucala Bay
The RNZAF P-3K2 patrol flight on 31 January 2015 coincides with the 50th Anniversary year of the withdrawal of No. 5 Squadron from Laucala Bay Base on the island of Taveuni in Fiji. It was formed there in 1941 flying the Vickers Vincents. It flew Short Sunderland MR.5s until 1965 when it started a 2 year relocation to RNZAF Base Auckland (Whenuapai) to start flying the then brand new Lockheed P-3B Orion. The squadron currently flies six modernized P-3K2 Orions, with the final updates planned for later this year.

No word yet on when the next RNZAF Orion patrol flight will take place.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger, including source information provided by the RNZAF

RNZAF No. 5 Squadron started operations in Fiji in 1941 with the Vickers Vincents, an aircraft similar to this RAF Vickers Vildebeest Mk2 practicing a torpedo drop in 1936 (Image (PD) Imperial War Museum)
RNZAF No. 5 Squadron started operations in Fiji in 1941 with the Vickers Vincents, an aircraft similar to this RAF Vickers Vildebeest Mk2 practicing a torpedo drop in 1936 (Image (PD) Imperial War Museum)
RNZAF Orion NZ4201 seen overhead Whenuapai on 30 March 2012 (Image © New Zealand Defence Force)
RNZAF Orion NZ4201 seen overhead Whenuapai on 30 March 2012 (Image © New Zealand Defence Force)