The New Zealand Government has reached an agreement to purchase four Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft from the US in a NZD2.346bn ($1.6bn) deal.

The procurement will allow the government to replace the existing P-3K2 Orion fleet, which has been operated by the Royal New Zealand Air Force since the 1960s and will reach the end of its expected operational life in 2025.

Acquisition, training systems, infrastructure and service introduction costs are included in the deal’s total purchase price.

“The purchase ensures the defence force can continue to deliver the country’s maritime surveillance, resource protection, humanitarian and disaster response.”

The new P-8As are scheduled to be operational from 2023.

They will allow the government to support airborne maritime surveillance, humanitarian aid, disaster response, and resource protection in the South Pacific region.

New Zealand Defence Minister Ron Mark said: “The purchase ensures the defence force can continue to deliver the country’s maritime surveillance, resource protection, humanitarian and disaster response around New Zealand and across the South Pacific.

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“This decision strengthens the coalition government’s pacific reset by providing a maritime patrol capability with the significant range and endurance needed to assist our partners in the region.

“The purchase enables New Zealand to continue to deploy in a wide range of airborne maritime situations independently, and when required, work effectively with partners, including Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which all operate or will operate the aircraft.”

The new aircraft will also allow the government to continue to participate in global peace and security operations.

The P-8As will be operated by No 5 Squadron, which will move from Whenuapai to Ohakea air force base.