HMNZS Te Kaha, an Anzac class frigate, has arrived in Esquimalt, British Columbia, to commence a major upgrade of its sensor and weapons systems expected to extend its service life out to 2030.
Marking the arrival of the vessel in Canada, New Zealand’s Defence Minister Ron Mark said that “there is a significant programme of work to upgrade or replace New Zealand’s defence equipment that aims to maintain the safety of our military personnel and the country’s ability and readiness to deploy when needed, both in this country and overseas”.
This latest refit will follow on from earlier upgrades that worked on the vessel’s propulsion, air-conditioning and CIWS systems by upgrading the surveillance, combat and self-defence capabilities. The project will be undertaken by Lockheed Martin Canada, who won the international tender using an adapted version of the recent upgrades conducted on the Canadian Halifax class frigates.
This will include the installation of their CMS 330 Combat Management System and the replacement of the RIM7P Seasparrow missile with MBDA’s British designed Sea Ceptor vertical launched CAAM(M).
Some cost overruns have already occurred however and the government was forced to reallocate an additional NZ$148 million (£77 million) from the Littoral Operations Support Capability project to ensure the refit could go ahead. The total project budget it therefore expected to be $639 million (£336 million).
Discussing the funding shift the Minister said that “the Government’s decision reflects the value placed on our frigates and their ability to operate across and support a wide range of operations.”
“In the time the frigates have been operational New Zealanders have come to expect their involvement in constabulary and humanitarian, to combat roles as part of a multinational coalition. These contributions are valued by our international partners.”
The refit has also demonstrated the strong bond between the two Commonwealth Realms. “New Zealand and Canada have a close and enduring partnership based on shared history and common interests. Our cooperation on the Frigate System Upgrade is a demonstration of the maturity of our bilateral relationship, which continues to strengthen in 2018,” Mr Mark said.
This was further shown in the transit to Canada when ten members of the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve were embarked in Pearl Harbor to join the vessel on the final leg, gaining experience on working life aboard the frigate and working with their New Zealander counterparts.
Once HMNZS Te Kaha’s upgrade is completed later this year she will relieve her sister ship HMNZS Te Mana as the Navy’s active frigate allowing the Te Mana to undergo the same refit in early 2019.