But if the Air Force isn’t strong enough to exercise, how will it get in shape for combat?

Don't wait for Mapp ... he hasn't finished cleaning his carburetor.

It’s a bloody good thing we don’t have to fight the Battle of Britain or its Kiwi equivalent in the foreseeable future.

At least, so far as Alf knows (and he gets his intelligence on these matters from discussing defence and foreign affairs policy at caucus meetings), no such battle is in the offing just yet.

He makes his observation about our fitness for combat on hearing that the Royal New Zealand Air Force has had to pull out of two international exercises this year because of a lack of planes.

An Air Force without enough planes to take part in exercises?

Yep. That’s what it boils down to, which explains why we call on God to Defend New Zealand in our national anthem.

And no, it’s not because we have had a few planes shot down.

Rather, they have been sent to the workshop in sufficient numbers – ie FOUR – to seriously deplete the force.

Currently two of the five Hercules aircraft and two of the six Orions, are out of action because they need upgrade work, which is taking longer than expected.

As a result, the RNZAF cancelled its involvement in international exercises in Canada and the United States at the start of the year.

When you have an Air Force as small as this, you would think that Defence Minister Wayne Mapp personally could do the necessary upgrade work at weekends, in much the same way as other Kiwi blokes tinker with their cars.

He could get the kids to help him.

He hasn’t offered to do this.

According to Radio NZ, however, he does say the situation is a concern, but operational matters must come first.

Alf would have thought building an Air Force worth the name should come first.

This would require it to be strong enough to exercise, so it can get fit for the real thing, in much the same way as we are building up our All Blacks for the real thing at the World Cup next year.

But no, Mapp has come up with an answer (not a very encouraging one) without adding to the numbers of aircraft in the force.

He says the air force operates small fleets, and in the future only one plane at a time will be taken out of service for upgrade work.

If we are only going to take them out of service one at a time, Mapp indeed could do the upgrade work himself at weekends. In this case, of course, it would be fair enough if he put the purchase of tools and materials on his ministerial credit card.

Meanwhile Alf is urging his Ministerial colleagues to remain on very, very good terms with all neighbouring countries. We don’t want the likes of Samoa or Tonga catching us by surprise while much of our air power is in the upgrade shop.

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