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No. 5 Squadron RNZAF
Active Nov 1941 – Nov 1942
Jul 1944 – present
Country New Zealand New Zealand
Allegiance Queen Elizabeth II
Branch Air Force Ensign of New Zealand.svg Royal New Zealand Air Force
Role Anti-ship/Anti-submarine operations, Maritime patrol, Search and rescue
Motto(s) Fiji: Keitou Kalawaca Na Wasaliwa
(Translation: We span the ocean)
Mascot(s) Albatross
Equipment P-3K2 Orion
Engagements World War II
Operation Enduring Freedom
Squadron Badge In front of a blue roundel, an Albatross volant facing sinister with its wings spread in flight
Squadron Codes OT (Nov 1941 – Nov 1942)[1]
PA (Jul 1944 – 1945)[1]
KN (1946–1955)[1]

No. 5 Squadron RNZAF is a squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force formed during November 1941 in Fiji. It remains on active duty and logged 2,300 hours flight time in 2007.[2]


World War II[]

Initially, the squadron was equipped with Vickers Vincents. From the outbreak of hostilities with Japan, the squadron operated the Short Singapore Mk.IIIs (transferred on October 1941 from No. 205 Squadron RAF ) mainly on maritime patrol and anti-submarine duties, rescueing more than fifty survivors of ditched aircraft[3] and successfully attacking a Japanese submarine in the process with the elderly Singapores. These types were superseded by Consolidated PBY Catalinas, which aided the air-sea rescue capability. The Squadron moved from Fiji in late 1944 to operate between Espiritu Santo and the Admiralty Islands. During this time the later conqueror of Mount Everest, Edmund Hillary, served with the squadron.[citation needed] In November 1944 the squadron moved to Luganville Seaplane Base on Espiritu Santo to carry out anti-submarine patrols and escort duty[4] In August 1945 the squadron was withdrawn to Fiji.[5]

Cold war[]

Following the war the squadron was re-equipped with 16 Short Sunderland MR.5s and based at Laucala Bay, in the suburbs of Suva, Fiji, tasked with "maritime surveillance" over the vast South Pacific Ocean, medical evacuation flights and communications flights for the colonial administrators". From 1965 the squadron relocated to Whenuapai, Auckland, to re-equip with five Lockheed P-3B Orions in the anti-submarine role. The squadron withdrew its last flight of Sunderlands from Lauthala Bay in 1967.

The P-3B fleet was upgraded in the mid 1980s (Project Rigel) with a more modern radar (APS-134), an IRDS camera, a digital computing bus and electronic displays/information management system. They were subsequently redesignated P-3K. A sixth aircraft was purchased from the RAAF during the Project Rigel upgrade.

No. 5 Squadron won the Fincastle trophy for anti-submarine work on a number of occasions although in recent years focus has shifted from anti-submarine warfare to broader maritime patrol and search and rescue missions.

Modern days[]

The aircraft have been deployed to assist international efforts on several occasions. From May 2003 – Feb 2004, a detachment operated in support of Operation Enduring Freedom by patrolling the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman.

In October 2004, a contract was signed with L-3 Communications Integrated Systems, of the United States, to upgrade the aircraft’s communication, navigation, surveillance and data management systems.[6] The contract also included an upgrade of crew training, software testing and integration facilities and mission preparation and analysis systems.

In 2005 the first of the six P-3K Orions began being upgraded to the new P-3K2 standard, modernising the avionics and mission systems.

In January 2006 No. 5 Squadron conducted trials to prove the aircraft could operate from Antarctica. This would improve capabilities to better police illegal fishing, and the trial occurred at a time when New Zealand was under pressure to intervene in the increasingly heated dispute between Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd and Japanese commercial whaling ships.

In 2006 an Orion was used to photograph Raoul Island after a small volcanic eruption killed a Department of Conservation (DOC) worker.

On the 2 May 2011 the RNZAF accepted the first upgraded P-3K2 Orion from the Ministry of Defence. The aircraft is due to undergo a period of Operational Testing and Evaluation (OT&E) before commencing active use.[7]

Photo gallery[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Flintham and Thomas 2003, p. 141.
  2. Mateparae, Jerry (Monday 08 September 2008). "Can't fight? In fact we still punch above our weight". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 25 March 2011. 
  3. Darby 1978, p. 20.
  4. Ross, John (1955). Royal New Zealand Air Force. Historical Publications Branch. p. 277. ISBN 0898391873. 
  5. Ross, p.314
  6. "P3 Systems Upgrade [Ministry of Defence NZ]". 2013-06-21. Retrieved 2013-10-22. 
  7. [1][dead link]
  • Darby, Charles. RNZAF: The First Decade, 1937–46. Dandenong, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia: Kookaburra Technical Publications Pty Ltd., 1978. ISBN 0-85880-031-4.
  • Flintham, Vic and Andrew Thomas. Combat Codes: A Full Explanation and Listing of British, Commonwealth and Allied Air Force Unit COdes Since 1938. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing ltd., 2003. ISBN 1-84037-281-8.

External links[]

Further reading[]

  • Paul Harrison, 'Kiwi Orions'

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