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No. 3 Squadron RNZAF
First flight of a RNZAF NH-90.jpg
New Zealand NH90
Active Since 1930
Country  New Zealand
Allegiance New Zealand
Branch Air Force Ensign of New Zealand.svg Royal New Zealand Air Force
Role Battlefield helicopter
Size One Squadron
Garrison/HQ RNZAF Base Ohakea
Motto(s) Kimihia Ka Patu (Seek and Destroy)
Colors Red and Black
Equipment UH-1H Iroquois, NH-90, A-109.
Decorations Meritorious Unit Citation
Battle honours

No. 3 Squadron RNZAF is a unit of the RNZAF. It remains on active duty.


3 Squadron formed as a Territorial unit of the New Zealand Permanent Air Force based at Christchurch in 1930.

Pilots attached to the squadron used NZPAF aircraft based at Wigram until No.3 Squadron got its first aircraft Blackburn Baffin torpedo bombers, in 1938.

File:3 Sqn RNZAF 1939.jpg

No.3 Squadron Personnel at the Outbreak of WWII

Following the outbreak of war the unit was equipped with Vickers Vincent and Vickers Vildebeest torpedo/patrol bombers and was tasked with protecting shipping entering Lyttelton harbour.

The squadron received modern aircraft in the form of Lockheed Hudsons converting to the patrol bomber role. The squadron was deployed to Palikulo Bay Airfield on Espiritu Santo on 9 October 1942, becoming operational on 16 October.[1] On 23 November 1942 No.3 became the first RNZAF squadron deployed forward to engage the Japanese, when a six aircraft detachment was deployed to Henderson Field on Guadalcanal.[2] No. 3 Squadron was attached to the Search and Patrol Group, responsible for conducting daily and nightly searches of the approaches to Guadalcanal, and daily low-level searches along the coastlines of islands which might be used as Japanese staging points,replacing dive bombers and long range heavy bombers in this role.[3] Despite being lightly armed, a Hudson of F/O Gudsell twice saw off attacks by three Japanese aircraft; Gudsell was awarded the Air Medal (US). The Squadron moved to Kukum Field on Guadalcanal and stayed there until October 1943 when it returned to Santo where it remained until January 1944. From February–March 1944 the Squadron returned to Guadalcanal, returned to Santo from May–July and deployed to Guadalcanal again from July–August 1944. The Squadron re-equipped with Lockheed Venturas and in August 1944 moved to Piva Airfield on Bougainville. In October 1944 the Squadron moved to Emirau where they ran interdiction patrols against Japanese shipping and ground targets. No. 3 squadron was replaced by No.4 Squadron in November 1944 and returned to New Zealand.[4] The Squadron returned to Guadalcanal from February–March 1945 and was then deployed to Green Island from March–June 1945.[5]

From 1948 to 1957 No.3 Squadron reverted to being a territorial squadron, based at Wigram with de Havilland Tiger Moths, North American Harvards and P-51 Mustangs. It subsequently operated transport types such the Bristol Freighter and Army co-operation types such as the Auster AOP, before becoming a dedicated helicopter squadron in 1965, based at Hobsonville, Auckland, and equipped with Bell 47s, and from the end of the year Bell UH-1 Iroquois, a type it still operates.

The Squadron's Naval Support Flight flew helicopters for the Royal New Zealand Navy's frigates from 1966 until October 2005, when the role was transferred to 6 Squadron. The flight flew Westland Wasps, and later Kaman Seasprites of the naval air wing attached to the squadron from 1966 to 2005.

Pilots from No. 3 Squadron served in Vietnam and in UN peace keeping in the Sinai. The Squadron served in East Timor. For many years a detachment was based in Singapore, to support the New Zealand Army presence there, and combat Indonesian insurgents. Detachments have recently served in the Solomon Islands and Antarctica.

No. 3 Squadron UH-1s transported the participants on the first episode of Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains.

Today, No. 3 Squadron provides tactical air transport for the army. The Iroquois are scheduled to be replaced by NH90s.

Current Strength

A No. 3 Squadron UH-1H Iroquois in November 2009

One of No. 3 Squadron's A109 helicopters in 2012

The squadron has a total personnel strength of approximately 135, and operates the following aircraft:

  • Utility Flight of 13 UH-1H Iroquois based at RNZAF Base Ohakea. UH-1H helicopters will remain in service, until the NH-90 is fully operational.
  • Training Flight of 5 Bell-47 Sioux based at RNZAF Base Ohakea. These helicopters have now been retired.
  • Training and Light Support Helicopter - 5 Agusta A109 LUH helicopters. A procurement to purchase a further 3 A-109 signalled by the Defence Force White Paper.
  • Medium Utililty Helicopter - 8 (+1 for spares) NH-90 helicopters. 2 in service now with the rest due by early 2013.

The Ministry of Defense has an ongoing (as of 2008) helicopter replacement program that is to replace the Iroquois with 8 NH-90(+1 for spares) and 8 A-109 helicopters for NZ$771 million. The A-109 will also provide the Air Force with a light utility and counter-terrorist support role.[citation needed]

B47G-3B-2 Sioux

Number 3 Squadron (Training Flight) of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) still operates the B47G as an ab-initio training helicopter. The first helicopters to be flown by the RNZAF, six B47G-3B-1 (NZ3701 -NZ3706) were delivered in 1965. Seven B47G-3B-2 (NZ3707 - NZ3713) were purchased in 1968 and delivered during 1970. The five remaining Sioux in RNZAF service are all B47G-3B-2. All will be replaced in 2011 by the Augusta A109LUH.

UH-1H Iroquois

The Royal New Zealand Air Force currently has an active fleet of 13 Iroquois serving with No. 3 Squadron RNZAF.[6] The first delivery was five UH-1D in 1966 followed in 1970 by nine UH-1H and one more UH-1H in 1976. All of the UH-1D aircraft were upgraded to 1H specification during the 1970s. Two ex-US Army UH-1H attrition airframes were purchased in 1996, one of which is currently in service. Three aircraft have been lost in accidents.[citation needed]

Capacity is nine passengers or five troops with full packs or seven troops in light order. Equipment includes a rescue winch, nightsun searchlight and night vision goggle capability. Armament 2 x M60D 7.62mm machine guns (being replaced by MAG58 7.62mm).

The Air Force is currently in the process of retiring the Iroquois. The NHIndustries NH90 has been chosen as the replacement aircraft. This process is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.[7]


On 25 April 2010, at about 5.45am, a UH-1 Iroquois crashed near Paekakariki Hill Rd, about 40 km north east of Wellington. The Iroquois was en route to Anzac Day commemorations from RNZAF Base Ohakea when the helicopter crashed into a steep hill in the morning darkness, killing 3 men. A 4th crew member survived the crash with serious injuries. The cause of the crash was released to the public on 16 December 2011.[8] The Defence Force's court of inquiry into the accident found sub-standard protocols and a culture of "rule breaking" among 3 Squadron was partly to blame. The report found the crew lost situational awareness when they inadvertently flew into heavy cloud in the early-morning darkness, and did not recover in time to take evasive action. The court of inquiry made 20 recommendations - half of those directly addressed what it deemed to be the six causes of the crash.

Preserved Aircraft

This Hudson served with 3 Squadron in 1943

An Auster AOP operated by the squadron is at the Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum, together with an Iroqouis in 3 Squadron colours, and a Westland Wasp and an early F model Kaman SH-2 Seasprite formerly operated by the squadron's naval flight. Another Wasp is preserved in the Museum of Transport and Technology, together with a Lockheed Hudson used by both No. 2 and 3 Squadrons. A number of ex 3 squadron Bristol Freighters have survived, including one in the Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum.


  1. Ross, John (1955). Royal New Zealand Air Force. Historical Publications Branch. p. 138. ISBN 0898391873. 
  2. Ross, p.146
  3. Ross, pp.147-8
  4. Ross, p.266
  5. Ross, p.322
  6. "RNZAF - 3 Squadron History". 2005-10-31. Retrieved 2012-09-04. 
  7. "NH90." Royal New Zealand Air Force. Retrieved: 30 January 2012.
  8. Coleman-Ross, Hamish "Mixed feelings over Iroquois crash report",, 16/12/2011

External links

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