Defence Minister Ron Mark has hit out at previous Government's for a lack of investment in the Royal New Zealand Air Force - while hanging out the back of an Air Force plane as it flew over Auckland.
A $1.521 billion project will see the Air Force's current C130-H Hercules fleet, which was introduced in 1965, replaced with five C-130J-30 Super Hercules transport aircraft.
However, the first of them will not arrive until 2024 - with the fleet to be operational in 2025.
The project also includes a full mission simulator and other supporting infrastructure.
Mark said the procurement of the Super Hercules fleet had been his "top priority" and acknowledged widely reported issues with the current fleet - including instances of having the whole fleet out of service due to faults and maintenance.
He said it was only about 10 days since the Air Force was in the "once again in the awful position of having no Hercules serviceable".
"So that meant if there was a counter-terrorist deployment, if there was a Search and Rescue deployment, if there was another cyclone that hit Vanuatu or Fiji again - we were powerless."
Mark said "these were problems made worse" by previous Government's avoiding decisions and refusing to allocate defence spending.
"To be perfectly frank, successive Governments have let the Defence Force down ... these Hercules are 55 years old, they will be 60 years old when they finally are retired."
The current fleet was having issues the manufacturer, Lockheed, had never heard of before, he said.
"The degree of electrolysis that's occurring, corrosion in places where no other Hercules have experienced corrosion, the number of extensions and modifications they've had has really taken the right to the edge."
The minister said it would be challenging to keep the fleet in the air for another five years and he hoped the new fleet would have a shorter lifespan of 30 to 35 years.
Mark said was "ridiculous" the current Hercules have had their lifespan "stretched out" to 60 years and he hoped it never happened again.
The Super Hercules fleet is also used by all of New Zealand's Five Eyes partners. "We procure what we know is fit for service," Mark said.
"Buying the C130-J Hercules puts us in that family ... we get the benefit of knowing the aircraft are proven."
Mark said the fleet would now be more reliable, easier to maintain, and more fuel-efficient. "They are the first responder."
"The new aircraft will carry a greater payload, is faster and can travel further than the current Hercules aircraft."
"They are the latest and the best technology," he said.
Chief of Air Force Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Clark said the procurement of the Super Hercules was a significant milestone. "This decision means New Zealand will continue to be there when others need our help."
He said it was the conclusion of multiple years of work, and the "challenge now is to deliver on these investments".
The Government's also approved $21 million to upgrade systems in the Air Force NH90 helicopters to comply with regulatory and operational requirements.