Tenders will be sought to upgrade the self-defence and sensor capabilities of the Royal New Zealand navy frigates HMNZS Te Kaha and HMNZS Te Mana, Defence Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman announced today.
“The frigates are a vital part of our Defence Force but the weapons and sensor systems were designed in the late 1980s and require a mid-life upgrade,” said Dr Coleman.
Cabinet has approved a Detailed Business Case and a Request for Tender will be issued by the Ministry of Defence early next year.
The project aims to replace the hardware and software of the Combat Management Systems on the ships, modernise radars and sensors, and replace the self defence missile systems.
“This will address issues of obsolescence with the ships technology as well as ensuring the vessels are a credible capability which can operate in the South Pacific and wider Asia Pacific region” said Dr Coleman.
“The Defence White Paper 2010 identified the ANZAC frigates would require an upgrade by 2017 to address obsolescence, surveillance systems, and anti-missile protection. The government is delivering on the White Paper,” said Dr Coleman.
The ANZAC frigates’ propulsion and close-in weapon systems have already been upgraded. The next tier of work would effectively complete a mid-life upgrade ensuring another 15 years’ service life.
“No funding commitment has yet been made. Only after going to market through an open and competitive tender process will the government consider making its investment decision,” said Dr Coleman.
Cabinet is likely to further consider the project in the latter half of next year, and once the commercially sensitive tender process is completed give an indication on costs.
The project will be funded by a combination of depreciation and savings from within existing baselines and will require no further money.
- What is the naval Combat Force?
Our Naval Combat Force consists of the two frigates, HMNZS Te Kaha and HMNZS Te Mana, with Seasprite helicopters. The frigates were introduced into service in 1997 and 1999 respectively, with an expected life of about 30 years. They are multi-purpose, medium-size surface combat ships.
- Why do the frigates need to be upgraded?
It is common for military platforms that are in service for 30 years to require a mid-life upgrade. The frigates are approaching that point. Most of their hardware and electronic systems are 15 years old and use 20 year old architecture. The costs of maintenance are rising sharply with age.
- Where have we deployed the frigates?
In their 15 years of service, the frigates have steamed over 500,000 nm and been deployed the world over on joint exercises, military diplomacy and operational roles.
- Major deployments include East Timor (1999), the Arabian Gulf (1999 and 2008), Solomon Islands (2000-2001), and the Gulf of Oman (2002-2004).
- What do the frigates offer the Government relative to other assets like the Offshore Patrol Vessels?
The frigates are purpose-built naval combatants. The main point of difference between them and the Offshore Patrol Vessels, apart from size and armament, is their ability to operate in a threat area due to survivability and the greater range of tasks they can perform.
- The frigates are designed and equipped to operate in environments where military threats exist or could develop at short notice and where non-combat ships (such as our Offshore Patrol Vessels and HMNZS Canterbury) cannot go unless protected by an ANZAC frigate.
- What have we upgraded on the frigates already?
A number of decisions have already been made which in total represent the mid-life upgrade of the ANZAC frigates, including:
-Platform systems upgrade (2007): replacement of the main engines and propulsion system, the heating/cooling and an upgrade to the control systems.
-Close in Weapon System (CIWS) upgrade (2007): CIWS is a high capacity machine gun that is capable of defeating short-range weapons and small attack craft.
- What is the next step?
The Ministry of Defence will issue a Request for Tender early next year for the lead contractor, supply of components and other items as required to deliver the upgrade.