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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



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Post-war Changes

New problems arose at the end of the war. Apart from demobilisation and the closing down of wartime stations, there was the job of reshaping the service, making it smaller and more compact, yet strong enough to carry out its role in the event of another war. First, the regular Air Force was reorganised on a peacetime basis and, later, the territorial Air Force was reconstituted and an Air Force Reserve formed.

Since the end of the war at least three squadrons of the RNZAF have been stationed overseas. No. 14 (Fighter) Squadron was sent to Japan early in 1946 as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force and spent two and a half years there. The squadron's next tour of duty began in 1952 when, equipped with De Havilland Vampire jet fighters, it was sent to Cyprus to operate with the RAF as part of the Middle East Air Force. From Cyprus the squadron moved to Singapore in 1955 when it formed part of the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve and carried out operations against terrorists in the Malayan jungle. It returned to New Zealand in 1958, being replaced in Singapore by No. 75 (Bomber) Squadron with Canberra aircraft. This squadron was withdrawn in 1962 as a result of the Government's White Paper on Defence of the previous year. Another renowned RNZAF squadron, No. 41 Transport Squadron, also has a long association with Singapore. From 1949 to 1951 and again from 1955 to the present time, operating from Changi on Singapore Island, the squadron has flown its Bristol Freighters all over the Far East and carried out a variety of tasks including supply dropping over the Malayan jungle during the emergency in that country. Since 1962 a detachment of the squadron has been based at Korat in Central Thailand. No. 5 (Maritime) Squadron has been permanently based at Lauthala Bay in Fiji since early in the war. In addition to its military (anti-submarine) role, it has distinguished itself in search and rescue missions in the South Pacific and in bringing medical aid to people of outlying islands. It has also been of considerable help to the civil administration in providing communications to outlying groups. At the time of writing (1964) the Government had approved of the purchase of new Lockheed P3 Orion aircraft to replace the Sunderland in the anti-submarine warfare role.

From the end of the war until 1957, the RNZAF was committed mainly to the fighter-ground attack role and was organised so as to provide a small regular nucleus capable of rapid expansion in time of war. The advent overseas of improved nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles brought about a change in policy, the RNZAF appreciating the need to concentrate on an effective “force-in-being”, rather than a regular cadre supported by large reserves. As a result, the five territorial squadrons were disbanded. Today the main operational roles of the RNZAF are those of attack, maritime, and transport. To these ends, the RNZAF consists of two attack squadrons—No. 14 (Canberra) and No. 75 (Vampire), both based at Ohakea. Maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine operations are the responsibilities of No. 5 Squadron whose Sunderland flying boats will be replaced by the Orions, operating in the main from Whenuapai. Engaged in transport operations, there is No. 40 Squadron at Whenuapai whose long-range Hastings and DC6 aircraft make regular flights to Singapore, Fiji, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In 1965 these aircraft will be replaced by Lockheed Hercules C130 transport aircraft.

No. 41 Squadron, equipped with Bristol Freighters, is based at Changi (Singapore), with a detachment at Korat, Thailand. In addition, the Transport Support Unit at Whenuapai, also equipped with Bristol Freighters, serves to provide replacement aircrew for No. 41 Squadron and to carry out a variety of transport tasks within New Zealand. No. 42 (Communications) Squadron at Ohakea is equipped with Dakotas and Harvards and is responsible for communications within New Zealand including the air transport of His Excellency the Governor-General, Cabinet Ministers, and distinguished visitors.

The RNZAF maintains an efficient training organisation in support of the attack, maritime, and transport squadrons. Pilots, navigators, and air signallers are trained at the Flying Training School at Wigram where also is located the Central Flying School, responsible for the training of flying instructors. Aircrew are given advanced training on the aircraft they are to fly at the Jet Operational Conversion Unit at Ohakea, the Maritime Operational Conversion Unit at Hobsonville, and the Transport Support Unit at Whenuapai.

In addition to its normal commitments as a link in the chain of Commonwealth defence, New Zealand has obligations to the South East Asia Treaty Organisation and under the ANZUS Pact. RNZAF units frequently exercise with the air, ground, and sea forces of other SEATO member nations.

by Squadron-Leader Geoffrey Bentley, M.B.E., Public Relations Officer, Royal New Zealand Air Force, Wellington.