NZ Army's new truck fleet broken down

March 3rd, 2005  

Topic: NZ Army's new truck fleet broken down

Army's new truck fleet broken down
04 March 2005

The army's new $93 million fleet of Pinzgauer light operational vehicles, some of which are needed by Kiwi troops in Afghanistan, is idle because of gearbox problems.

The Afghanistan contingent is being forced to patrol rugged country in old leased vehicles that often break down. The Defence Force cannot send the Pinzgauers till they are fixed and drivers get the training required.

The 321 six-wheel-drive vehicles are of a type used by European armies for decades.

However, problems with the New Zealand vehicles follow a succession of teething troubles New Zealand's armed forces have had with newly commissioned equipment.

Problems have been experienced with the Steyr rifle, the Mistral air defence missile system, the Charles Upham troop transporting ship and the Scorpion light tank.

The ministry has dismissed the latest problems as "expected" warranty issues.

"As expected there are some warranty issues and these are being attended to by the manufacturer," spokesman Warren Inkster said. The ministry would not say, however, whether it was withholding payments to the vehicles' manufacturer, Automotive Technik.

National MP Murray McCully said the public needed reassurance that this problem had not been handled as badly as others involving military equipment.

It is understood 17 of the first 90 vehicles delivered to the army have had trouble with oil overheating in their gearboxes and several vehicles' transmissions have "cooked".

The Pinzgauers order was placed last year when the Government signed a contract with Automotive Technik of Britain for 321 to replace the army's obsolete Land Rover fleet.

Mr McCully said soldiers overseas were told they were getting modern equipment and it wasn't good enough that they couldn't get access to it.

As for the ministry's refusal to talk about whether it was holding back payments, Mr McCully said all sorts of rumours were buzzing around and it would be better for everyone if the picture was clarified.

Automotive Technik's New Zealand agent Graham Auker referred all questions to his company's head office in Britain.

Though the Austrian-designed Pinzgauer has been in service with European armies for decades they have been produced by their present British maker for only four years. It is understood the New Zealand vehicles have a new gearbox.

This is just the latest hitch in a long and fraught project since it first got Government approval in 1999.

It quickly ran into bureaucratic problems similar to those that plagued the $700 million light armoured vehicle project. The ministry, responsible for buying defence equipment, accused the army of trying to skew the process by putting up a list of specifications to ensure it got United States-made Humvees.

An initial tender round failed when all three short-listed vehicles were rejected. The manufacturer of Humvees, AM General, has filed a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsmen that it was strung along during the process merely to maintain competition.

The army has been enthusiastic about the Pinzgauers. Only slightly larger than the Land Rover, they have twice the carrying capacity, are easier to drive and have excellent off-road performance.,2106,3206125a10,00.html