// The Post War Years
Throughout the 1946 - 1949 period, the Air Force struggled to adjust to the new era of peace. With almost no personnel resources, it had to maintain No.14 Squadron (Corsairs) in Japan, and decide on the future direction for the Air Force. In accordance with Government policy a move back to British aircraft began in 1946 with the delivery of second-hand Mosquitoes. Most of the wartime American aircraft were placed in storage to be scrapped. Several aircrews were seconded to the RAF to assist with the Berlin Airlift during 1948 - 49.
The RNZAF was called to assist with internal and external commercial airline operations. Using Dakotas and Lodestars of No.40 Squadron, these operations were absorbed by the New Zealand National Airways Corporation in 1947, which was formed mainly with personnel and aircraft of No.40 Squadron RNZAF.
In 1949, the rising threat of communism in Europe, the Far East (Malaya), shortly followed by the outbreak of the Korean War, led to the recreation of the Territorial Air Force, compulsory military training, and a wide ranging re-equipment programme. The new aircraft included Vampire jets, Hastings and Freighter transports, Sunderland flying boats and Devon trainers.
New Zealand's Defence Policy of the 1950s was tied to the protection of the UK and Commonwealth interests. To this end the RNZAF provided a Dakota detachment to Malaya in 1949, and in 1952, equipped with leased Vampires, No.14 Squadron moved from Ohakea to Cyprus as part of the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve. In 1955, a change in Defence policy to one which looked at the Far East as the forward line of defence saw No.14 Squadron moved to Tengah (Singapore) and re-equip with leased Venom fighter bombers. No.41 Squadron with Freighters established itself at Changi (Singapore) the same year. No.14 was replaced by No.75 squadron flying leased Canberras in 1958. The three RNZAF squadrons took part in Operation FIREDOG, the RAF's air campaign against communist terrorists in Malaya (1948 - 1960).
In New Zealand the four Territorial squadrons, Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago, were equipped with Tiger Moths, Harvards, and the 30 Mustangs re-activated from storage since the end of WWII. Continually faced with a shortage of air and ground crews, the TAF was finally disbanded in 1957.
To provide support to the British lead Trans-Antarctic Expedition, the RNZAF formed the Antarctic Flight in 1956. The Flight took a Beaver and Auster to Antarctica in the summer of 1956/57 to support the New Zealand contribution to the expedition. These annual summer operations continued until 1960. The RNZAF recommenced its association with the Antarctic in 1965 when a Hercules of No.40 Squadron made the first of what was to become annual flights, to the continent during the summer months from November - February each year.
Until 1966, post-war maritime operations for the RNZAF were based at Fiji. With Catalinas, then Sunderlands, No.5 Squadron provided surveillance and reconnaissance of a wide span of the South Pacific Ocean. Participation in allied maritime exercises from Hong Kong , the Philippines, Singapore and down to New Zealand, plus medical evacuation and community assistance tasks around the South Pacific were the squadron's forte. From 1952-57 No.6 Flying Boat Squadron operated as a Territorial Unit at Hobsonville, flying Catalinas and later Sunderlands.
A major review of Defence Policy in 1961 re-oriented New Zealand's Defence efforts based on the South Pacific, support to Commonwealth strategic reserve forces in South East Asia, and meeting commitments to the allied treaties of ANZUS and SEATO.
The CAS, Air Vice-Marshal Ian Morrison in 1962 successfully lobbied for replacement of obsolete operational aircraft, which was to see a major shift away from British aircraft to American aircraft to be more compatible with our friends and allies in the region. Hercules, and Orions were ordered along with the Air Forces first helicopters Iroquois and Sioux. The new fleet began arriving during 1965.
In 1964, No.14 Squadron flying New Zealand owned Canberras was on a regular exercise to Singapore, when it was directed to remain in theatre as part of the British Commonwealth build-up of forces to counter Indonesian insurgency into Borneo. The Squadron finally returned to New Zealand in November 1966.
The New Zealand Government committed forces to the Vietnam War in 1965. No.40 Squadron Hercules airlifted NZ troops to South Vietnam, and No.41 Squadron Freighters began regular re-supply missions from Singapore. In 1967 the first RNZAF helicopter pilots commenced duties with No.9 RAAF Squadron in Vietnam. Other pilots served with US Air Force squadrons as Forward Air Controllers, bringing a total of thirty pilots who served in Vietnam between 1967 and 1971.
In 1970 the Air Force took delivery of the Skyhawk attack aircraft. The ageing Vampires were replaced by Strikemaster jet trainers in 1972 and Iroquois helicopters joined No.41 Squadron at Singapore. To provide a medium range transport squadron in New Zealand, No.1 Squadron was reactivated at Whenuapai and equipped with Freighters. Throughout the 1970s more aircraft changes continued with wartime Harvard trainers replaced by New Zealand built Airtrainers, Freighters, Dakotas and communications Devons with second-hand Andovers (1977).
Another major change during this decade was the integration of the Women's Royal New Zealand Air Force into the Air Force in 1977, removing most restrictions on their employment and career opportunities, with the exception of some aircrew branches. These restrictions were lifted in 1987. In 1980, the training Devons were replaced with second-hand Air New Zealand Friendships.
The Labour Government's decision in 1984 for NZ to become a nuclear-free zone saw the RNZAF excluded from participation in US and British sponsored exercises, and a cooling of Defence relations with several other friends and allies.
This had a dramatic effect on the efficiencies of the Air Force's combat squadrons. With the lack of opportunities to practice operations skills, it became extremely difficult to maintain pace with the Air Forces we had traditionally worked with.
In 1981 two Boeing 727 jet transports were purchased, to support the growing worldwide transport commitments of the Air Force. During the late 1980s the Government increased the New Zealand Defence Force participation in peacekeeping duties, and by the end of the decade the RNZAF had been represented in the Sinai (Multi Force of Observers), operating leased helicopters 1982 - 1986, and with an Andover Detachment in Iran 1988 - 1990 (United Nations International Military Observer Group).
In the mid 1980s the Orions were upgraded, a sixth Orion purchased and 10 second-hand Skyhawks purchased from the RAN (1984). No.2 Squadron was reactivated at Ohakea and equipped with these Skyhawks. No.1 Squadron was disbanded and its Andovers taken over by No.42 Squadron which had relocated to Whenuapai. A major upgrade of the Skyhawk avionics systems was commenced in 1988.
In 1987 the Air Force celebrated its 50th Anniversary, and a museum opened at Wigram to permanently record and display the progress of the RNZAF. The last permanent presence in Singapore No.141 Flight (Iroquois) came home in 1989. A comprehensive review of Defence commenced in 1988 was to have a major impact on the Service in the 1990s
The 1990s has seen the most dramatic changes in the post WWII history of the RNZAF. Faced with New Zealand Government policies to reduce public spending and a further review of Defence Strategy in 1991, the Air Force underwent radical surgery. The Air Force Stores Depot at Te Rapa was closed in 1992, Flying Training moved from Wigram to Ohakea in 1993 and bases at Wigram and Shelly Bay were closed in 1995. In the drive for better efficiencies, commercialisation of non-core activities commenced in 1992 and continues today.
During the early 1990s, the personnel strength of the Service fell from the traditional 4200 which had been maintained from the 1950s - 1970s to the current level of around 3500. An increasing number of jobs within the Air Force have been civilianised.
Despite the reduction in budget and personnel, external operations by the Air Force have expanded. In 1990/91 two Hercules and personnel were deployed to the Gulf War where they operated as part of a composite RAF Hercules squadron.
In 1991 No.2 Squadron (Skyhawks) moved to Nowra NSW, Australia where it provides training for the RAN and conversion of RNZAF Skyhawk pilots. In 1993, an Andover detachment of three aircraft and personnel from No.42 Squadron spent five months in Somalia, as New Zealand's contribution to the Unified Task Force. Humanitarian airlifts were conducted by Hercules and Boeing aircraft of No.40 Squadron in the Middle East, and Rwanda. No.40 Squadron also provided air transport support to the NZ Army contingent in Bosnia during 1994 - 1996.
Re-shaping and further contractions in the search for better efficiencies continued during 1997 and 1998.
The New Zealand Government agreed, in early November 1997 to provide a Truce Monitoring Group (TMG) to the war-torn island of Bougainville.
To meet this task a New Zealand Defence Force contingent of Navy, Army and Air Force elements was raised and dispatched to Bougainville.
The RNZAF Operation Belisi required Hercules and crews of No.40 Squadron to provide a daily flight from New Zealand to Bougainville for the setting up phase (23 flights using three aircraft and crews), preparation and airlift of three Iroquois helicopters and Air Force helicopter crews and support personnel.
A Helicopter Force Element formed by a detachment of three Iroquois and personnel of No.3 Squadron served in Bougainville from December 1997 - April 1998. The Iroquois were painted in a highly visible 'Orange Roughie Red' colour scheme prior to moving to Bougainville.
From January 1998, detachment personnel and some of the Iroquois were rotated. In February 1998 the force was reduced to 35 personnel. Following the signing of the peace agreement in Bougainville late April 1998, the TMG was withdrawn. The three Iroquois and personnel arrived back in New Zealand 1-2 May 1998. Seven RNZAF personnel are currently in Bougainville assisting the Australian lead Peacekeeping Monitoring Group (PMG) which replaced the TMG.
The last year of the 20th century saw the RNZAF established around the three New Zealand bases - Auckland, Ohakea, and Woodbourne, the Air Staff at Wellington, and No.2 Squadron at Nowra (Australia).
The command of the RNZAF changed on 25 February 1999 when Air Commodore Donald Hamilton became Chief of Air Staff in the rank of Air Vice-Marshal, and the previous Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice-Marshal Carey Adamson was promoted to Air Marshal in the appointment of Chief of Defence Force.
During 1999, the major Air Force projects of Kestrel and Sirius (Orion upgrades) progressed, as did the F-16 introduction programme. The last of the 13 leased CT4E Airtrainers were delivered in early June. The CT-4B Airtrainers were disposed of to Pacific Aerospace Company Limited.
Elements of the RNZAF participated in several international exercises and competitions during the year.
RNZAF Base Auckland switched to commercial catering in July, the last base to move to commercial contractors for this function.
In mid September, two Hercules of No.40 Squadron joined RAAF Hercules flying between Darwin and Dili (East Timor) evacuating UNAMET and Timorese following the outbreak of violence after the independence referendum. In late September a detachment of six Iroquois and 140 air force personnel were committed to Dili as part of the multi-national military force INTERFET. The Iroquois began operations on 1 October 1999. In mid December the Iroquois detachment moved from Dili to Suai on the western coat of East Timor.
The manpower strength of the RNZAF, including uniformed and civilian personnel remained around 3,500.
On 20 March 2000 the Prime Minister announced that the government would not proceed with the F-16 Deal. In June 2000 a government review of the future of the Air Combat Force was commenced.
On 8 May 2001 the Government announced that as a result of the review of capabilities and the Defence funding strategies, the Air Combat Force would be disbanded.
Operational activities of Air Combat Force Skyhawks of No.75 Squadron continued in a limited operational capability until the November 2001. They deployed for Five Power Defence Arrangement exercises. No.2 Squadron Skyhawks, based at Nowra in New South Wales (Australia) continued to provide air defence training to the Australian Defence Force until November 2001.
No.5 Squadron Orions of the Maritime Patrol Force will be given a limited sensor and processing upgrade. They continued with regular surveillance patrols; exercising, both in New Zealand and internationally; and providing oceanic search and rescue cover.
Air transport support, internally and overseas, was provided to the NZDF by the Hercules and Boeings of No.40 Squadron and Iroquois helicopters of No. 3 Squadron.
In addition RNZAF air transport support to the New Zealand military commitment in East Timor continued, with around 46 personnel in theatre with five Iroquois helicopters of No.3 Squadron, based at Suai on the South coast of East Timor. The helicopters provided support to the New Zealand infantry battalion based in Suai province. No.40 Squadron Hercules and Boeings provided regular re-supply flights to and from East Timor. The New Zealand contingent is now part of the United Nations Force (UNTAET)
In July 2001 elements of the RNZAF's Air Command were integrated into the new New Zealand Defence Force Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQ) located at Trentham Army Base near Wellington.
The Air Combat Force comprising, Nos 2, 14, and 75 Squadrons was officially disbanded on 13 December 2001. As a result of these changes, a number of RNZAF personnel were discharged from service, reducing the Air Force personnel strength.