Category : Defence
Author: Nighthawk

Those that know me, know I want to increase spending on our defence force (not just the Navy) However, I want to get back to at least a four frigate navy and I want to up-spec our navy and give them some teeth...

The problem arises when you have to replace the two ANZAC class frigates HMNZS Te Kaha and HMNZS Te Mana, replace them with what. There are currently many designs and programs out there that New Zealand could tack onto. From the Type 26 Global Combat Ship, Type 31, The USN Constellation Class, the French FDI program, and many others.

The main issue is no matter what government is in power none of them take defence seriously enough because they think it doesn’t win any votes. They are thinking only for the next 3 years, not of New Zealand’s future security. So they don’t have it as a priority and that over the last 20-30 years has lead our Defence Force down to an ever-spiraling rabbit hole of defense cuts and limitations. We are an island nation in the south pacific, and our politicians are sea blind.

This government is happy to borrow and spend money and even waste money in all directions except on the one thing Government by law has to spend money on and that is Defence. Because if the government won't defend our realm then who?

There is much talk about modularity in the design to save costs and commonality or interoperability with our allies. This is not necessarily a bad thing but if you start to think like this it starts to limit options and when I say limit options it a multi-role vessel is a jack of all trades a master of none and when that comes to a combat vessel I do not like this idea at all.

HMNZS Te Kaha after upgrades.

In modern times New Zealand has only ever had four new combat-ready vessels HMNZ Ship’s Waikato (F55), Canterbury (F421), Te Kaha F77 and Te Mana (F111). Now don’t misinterpret this either, yes we have had patrol vessels, IPC’s, IPV’s, OPV’s and AOR’s as well as a Sealift MRV all new but in the 80 years the RNZN has been the RNZN, only four new build combat ships or vessels. All the rest have been second-hand.

There are talks that a modular design should be across the different classes of ships, or having a smaller class of corvette, or larger OPV’s but have more hulls. I actually disagree with this type of thinking for a variety of reasons.


 However while yes it gives more hulls in the water, but at that same token, it has less capability in the actual defence side of things. Most OPV's the best job they can do are coast guard, fishery patrols or HDAR, but nothing more than that.

While I will agree that the systems onboard these ships should be the same, like the combat systems interfaces, CMS (ie CMS330) the Bridge systems, Command and Control, as well as communications systems, should all be the same across the fleet. The actual design of each class of ship is negligible. A hull is a hull... and a ship made of steel is a ship made of steel and easily enough upgradable.

The modular design is not what people actually think it is either. It is more to do with missions. For example sending a warship on a HDAR operation, The Type 26 and it’s mission bays will be invaluable here. But in the same token similar equipment can be carried by our current OPV’s in an HDAR situation with the ability to carry sea containers on the quarter deck.

 Type  31 Frigate


That sea container the OPV’s carry becomes a mission bay and could be used for many other things other than just storing goods and cargo. You could have a container fitted out with specialist scientific systems or Special ops gear that just plugs into the ship's grid for power, then swap out to a standard container for HDAR. Not as versatile as the Type 26 Mission bay but still useful if used more than the conventional manner.

HMNZS Tui had a container installed and was used as the ops room when the towed array was deployed. It had all the hi-tech whiz-bang gizmo’s computers in the container back in the late 80’s early 90’s. So Royal New Zealand Navy has done this type of thing before.

We could have unplugged the container replaced it with another full of supplies for another mission. Though in reality, I don’t think this was ever thought of.

The hard part of designing a future navy for New Zealand is forecasting what the Navy will be used for in the future. What the requirements will be and while this sounds simple there is more to it than just saying patrolling the Domain of New Zealand waters.

New Zealand has an obligation to help out in the international community as well since we are part of that international community. From protecting and helping our and allies and various shipping lanes from pirates to keeping the rules-based international order. Why? Because like it or not New Zealand depends on those shipping lanes and New Zealand is part of that international community. We have to do our bit to help. We can not just depend on allies to protect our shipping lanes or keep the order of things in actual order while we sit back and watch our allies do it without helping... that is why many people see us as bludgers of the south pacific.

The FPDA are starting to notice we don’t have any offensive power. Australia is also spending more on defence to meet the Chinese threat in their back yard and we should be as well.

French FDI/FTI Frigate Program

If we don’t help then we should not use those shipping lanes nor should worry and the rules-based order and let chaos just happen. And when it does come to our shores we can not ask for help when shit hits the fan in our backyard. (and it will again) Just look at East Timor, Bougainville, Fiji coupes. It’s not a matter of if, but when it happens again.

Let's face it, China is stretching her arms and the red dragon is awake upsetting some of those rules-based order of things from the 9 dash line and the South China Sea which they have laid claim to which the international community has rejected. Build artificial islands in disputed regions... China and Taiwan, China and India clashes, China and Tibet, to the uncontrolled Chinese fishing fleets strip fishing various areas which are other countries fishing zones and EEZ etc.. to the human rights issues. China’s population has been brainwashed with 80 years of propaganda and needs to be woken up after all they are a communist-run country.


The issue with China at present is, most countries now, depend on them for exports and imports as part of their GDP and that is a whole other article I must write. So it is understandable that many countries don’t want to ruffle too many dragon scales especially New Zealand as we have over a 3rd of our GDP come from China. But we have a moral ground and obligation to help defend our realm and allies.

We then come to the southern ocean, which is an untouched resource-rich ocean. There is a high probability there is oil and gas there, as well as many other resources from fish and wildlife to even gold and other minerals. The only thing protecting though resources at present is the difficulty of extracting said resources. But as technology advances and as the world searches for new oil and gas as well as food supplies the southern ocean will become a hot spot that we must protect. Even if some of those drilling rigs are ours.

New Zealand's SAR, people forget how bit it is untill you put in prospective. This shows it laid over Europe and 1/4 or Africa.

The Realm of New Zealand includes but is not limited to; Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Kermadec Islands, Chatham Island, Snares Island, Auckland and Campbell Island, Antipodes Islands, and the Ross Dependency. And most (not all) of the sea and ocean in between... which is a lot. We are more than obligated to protect these areas and at present, we couldn’t.

The final piece of the puzzle that we must include is the Search and Rescue we are obligated to cover, this area which is just huge it covers a 10th of the planet from the Ross sea up to Tokelau.


The Realm of New Zealand is also larger than people realise.

So we need a Navy and Air Force that can cover and patrol this huge area, lend aid to, in a HDAR situation, and have enough teeth to truly help protect it if push comes to shove in a confrontation with anyone... looking at you China. (yes I am not scared to say it) but China is not the only problem.

The same Navy has to be able to slot in on international duties as well and not become a hindrance to any fleet operations, to be able to defend the fleet as part of their job, to be able to operate independently on any operation anywhere in the world. To be able to defend the ship and fleet and most importantly be able to go on the offensive. This is where we lack and yes this all costs money.


I am all for a 2 OPV + the new SOPV being lighter armed than a fully armed frigate combat vessel however not so under armed that they are not worth the effort like our current OPV’s are. They need to have the teeth to say “oh they can actually defend themselves and cause a bit of damage us...” At present what would one of our OPV’s do if it came across a Chinese fishing fleet being protected by a couple of Chinese frigates in New Zealand waters... nothing it couldn’t protect itself from this threat or stop the threat to our resources and would not be able to find the frigates before being in the range of any of their weapon systems nor would it be able to stop any of those incoming weapons if push came to shove.

Now that full scenario is unlikely but in the future when resources are what is being fought over, who knows? Also, China has been sending its Coast Guard and sometimes PLAN frigates to protect and bully neighboring nations in the disputed South China Sea and 9 dash line protecting their fishing fleets that are strip fishing in the EEZ of other countries... just because China has laid claim to that area. What would and what could New Zealand do if they started to do that around Tokelau?

Currently, the only thing I want on the ANZAC’s is more anti-ship capability. This capability has been missing since the beginning of time (well not quite but since the beginning of the missile age). They are "fitted for, but not with" which means they can be so-called quickly fitted if needed. But there is an issue with this line of thinking if the ship is on the other side of the world and needs them... it's a bit late, and in New Zealand’s case, we still need to purchase and test the systems.

As stated I want to see the RNZN back to at least a four frigate navy, ultimately I personally would like to see 4 frigates, 2 Type 26 ASW specialised frigates, and x2 up spec'd Type 31 general purpose frigates that will fulfill the rolls outlaid above.

Having two Type 26 allows the NZG the flexibility and teeth to have and operate in full combat operation. ASW or Anti Submarine Warfare, Strong Anti Air, and anti-ship capability. (if weapons and systems are installed which they must) giving the RNZN true capability of fleet operations and high-intensity full combat if required able to meet any threat able to slot in with our allies and fleet operations able to operate on their own and special operations if needed.

The "Type 26" is a big enough hull for future upgrades with space and weight not being too much of an issue unlike the ANZAC’s (and OPV’s )where the size and weight limits become an issue when future upgrading programs take place.


Backing this up the two up spec’d Type 31 having the same sensor suite, same CMS (CMS330), having the MASS, Sea Sentor, 5 inch main gun, CIWS, and a few typhoon autocannons and including ASM. While nowhere near as capable as the Type 26 in the ASW field, the Type 31 General Purpose Frigate can still be a capable and useful vessel to the overall fleet compilation.

The only major difference between the Type 26 and up spec’d Type 31 is the Mission bays and the electric drives, the acoustic dampening, and shape of the hull, and overall and ASW capability as well as the cost but overall can still give the RNZN a decent frigate squadron.  

Some people will argue that it should be all the same hull for commonality, to save money overall as there is less training etc, where I am saying the actual hull doesn't make any difference in the grand scheme of things in the realm of commonality. A hull is a hull, and a piece of steel is a piece of steel. The commonality comes down to the systems onboard, bridges systems, machinery spaces, command and control, Combat Management systems, weapons, and the like.  If Sailor "Jack" knows how to maintain the CAMM or the Radar system on the "Type 26" then Sailor "Jack" also knows how to maintain the CAMM or Radar system on the "Type 31" as will be essentially the same systems.

Frigate Squadron

  • x2 Type 26 Global Combat Vessels.
  • x2 Type 31 Arrowhead General Purpose Frigates.

Patrol Squadron

  • x2 OPV’s Up spec’d
  • x1 SOPV
  • x2 IPV’s at least install the 25mm Typhoon on the focs’l

Auxiliary Vessels

  • x2 Enhanced Sealift Vessels - Endurance 170
  • x1 AOR – HMNZS Aotearoa.
  • x1 DHV

Now New Zealand can actually afford this, New Zealand is not as poor and broke as they make us out to be... we never have been... it is just the polly’s of the day don’t like spending money on weapons to defend the country... just like many people don’t like spending money on insurance and the complain when they lose their house due to a fire and expect everyone to cover their loss, "GET THE DAMN INSURANCE"... the main issue is successive governments don’t seem to have the stomach to pay for defense. Having 2 "Type 26" keeps our allies happy, and give the NZG the flexibility in high combat capability, and able to slot into any fleet protection can operate on their own, the vessel could hold its own in the South China sea if needed or anywhere in the world where there is a true threat.

HMNZS Aotearoa

Now here I am different and say like the UK we have a second general-purpose vessel for general patrols around New Zealand Realm. Not needing the full ASW ie; the electric engines, the anti acoustic noise-reducing systems and special hull shape. It is not as expensive but still capable. But giving New Zealand its four frigate navy.

The "Type 31" can still do fleet operations just not to the same level as the "Type 26". The 31’s can continue doing the standard patrols including fishery patrols, HDAR, and exercises. They can still carry various other operations anywhere in the world on their own where ASW submarine threat is not as high. They can still hold their own if it is up spec'd and have the right systems.

The future sealift vessels again see my argument for the Endurance 170, OPV’s and SOPV needs to be using the same combat operations systems ie; CMS330 same radar, and sensors, and similar weapon systems. Although on the Endurance 170 I would add something like the S1850M 3-D air surveillance radar or similar.

The other final small thing here to note is the future SeaSprite replacement program. All vessels including the OPV’s replacement need to be able to carry and hanger the same helo platform and be able to do operations with whatever helo’s are currently in operation, another words the OPV replacement need to be able to land an NH-90 on the deck in an emergency situation (Don’t need to hanger it but at least get it on deck.)

Now I read Dr Wayne Mapp and his obsessive liking and recommendations of the Harry De-Wolf Class replacing all combatants with say six or seven of these vessels, ultimately effectively turning the Royal New Zealand Navy into armed coast guard. While I would say getting 3 replacing the current OPV’s and one of them up spec’s for the SOPV sure but to replace an armed frigate with a lightly armed OPV ... I mean what are you smoking.

Endurance 170

But to replace the frigate squadron with a less capable vessel is the very reason the armed forces are a shell of their former past and to be fair we are already there from its former self...

The Harry DeWolf class OPV while is okay as an OPV and the important thing here is the letter "P" in its title standing for Patrol, however, it is useless in anti-submarine, Anti Air, Anti-Surface Warfare roll... we couldn’t offer it as an escort for a carrier group or probably not the ideal vessel to go to any hot spot protecting shipping lanes, and pirate hunting duties.

You can not paint a ship grey and call it a warship... A warship is designed to take a hit and carry on fighting. Patrol vessels are designed around light duties border security, fishery protection, SAR and HDAR etc not design to take a massive hit and survive it and then carry on fighting.

I am happy with HMNZS Aotearoa at this stage, she hasn’t had a chance to prove or show any major problems, but on paper is a pretty capable vessel that should meet our and allies needs.

Article: http://www.nighthawk.nz
Note from Nighthawk.NZ:

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active
Powered by OrdaSoft!