The New Zealand Government is investing $36m to upgrade the Royal New Zealand Air Force underwater, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability on six Orion aircraft.

A contract to this effect was signed between the government and Boeing.

The investment comes after recently released 2016 Defence White Paper confirmed the importance of the New Zealand Defence Force having new capabilities.

The latest investment in new defence capabilities will help the country to cope with the realities of a complex and changing strategic environment.

With this investment, the New Zealand Defence Force will be able to operate across a broad spectrum of geographic and operating environments.

New Zealand Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said that underwater surveillance capability deters interference with the sea lines of communication that New Zealand and many of its friends rely on for trade purposes.

Brownlee further added: “Knowing what is happening underwater is integral to monitoring submarine activity.

“This is particularly important in the Asia-Pacific region which is home to two-thirds of the world’s submarines.”

The Orion aircraft are expected to retire from service in the mid-2020s.

"The Orion aircraft are expected to retire from service in the mid-2020s."

A replacement for the old and less reliable Orion aircraft will be chosen as part of Defence on the Future Air Surveillance Capability project.

Work under the project to select replacement for Orion has already commenced.

Nearly 25% of the value of the contract is being spent with New Zealand businesses Safe Air, Beca and Marops.

Image: A P-3K Orion of the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Photo: courtesy of New Zealand Defence Force.