Navy planners consider replacements for ageing Anzac Class frigates

Naval opinion is firming on the next type of frigate to replace the RNZN’s two Anzac Class frigates Te Kaha and Te Mana, which are scheduled to be retired within 10 years under the Defence Capability plans.

Both ships are ageing and, according to experienced officers, have had to be driven hard with only two frigates in the fleet. A decade ago a National Government declined to order a third. Both have seen hard service notably in the Gulf.

Attention is focusing on the BAE Systems Maritime Type 26 ordered for the Royal Navy, the Royal Australian Navy (which will build theirs in South Australia) and now the Royal Canadian Navy which has awarded Lockheed Martin Canada a contract to develop a 15-strong frigate fleet based on the Type 26.

Early reports indicate the Type 26 fits RNZN’s specifications “like a glove”, a naval architect tells our correspondent.  It will be powered by a Rolls Royce marine gas turbine based on the RR Trent 900 which powers the Boeing 777 and two electric motors.  This will give it a speed of more than 48 kph and a range of around 13,000 km.

It will have a 5in gun, missiles, a hangar deck and a flight deck strong enough to handle the RNZAF’s NH90 helicopters and a crew of around 120 according to task. The first are due in RN service in 2026.

Both Anzacs are having major upgrades and refits with Lockheed Martin Canada and other contractors. The first, a $394m project, provides a new combat Management System, the supply and integration of various sensors, missile system and a Combat System Trainer for the Devonport Naval Base in Auckland.

The Combat Management System and many of the sensors are the same as those being provided for the upgrade of the 12 Royal Canadian Navy Halifax Class frigates which was undertaken by LMC.

The second, at   $65m, upgrades the platform systems including the control and monitoring system, overall weight and stability management, the propulsion system, and the heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

UPDATE:  Australia’s nine Type 26 frigates, called Hunter class in RAN service, will be built at ASC Shipbuilding in South Australia.  In 2018 figures, the nine will cost $A35 billion.

The NZDF expects there will be pressure on the government under the closer defence arrangements, to have RNZN vessels built there. However, there is a long-held jaundiced view on buying Australian-builds because of high costs and quality controls.

The Navy might prefer to build them in the UK. In the 1960s, for example, the Australian Government pressed NZ hard to buy Australian-made Canberra bombers.  The NZ Government resisted and bought a better model in the UK for almost 30% less than the Australian price.


7 thoughts on “Navy planners consider replacements for ageing Anzac Class frigates

  1. On paper the Type 26 looks good. However the Type 45 Daring class destroyers showed great promise as well until the hull met the water and they discovered significant problems with the propulsion system that still haven’t been fully rectified. Also the ship design did not allow for access ways for the removal and replacement of faulty propulsion systems, so large holes have had to be cut into the hull through multiple deck levels to enable replacement of the faulty systems. British ships and systems have always been claimed to be the best in the world, but this is quite often not the case, because British designs traditionally do not allow for ease of access and maintenance. Secondly quality has also been lacking on occasion.

    The quality of Australian built ships and aircraft has at times fluctuated and i find it somewhat rich claiming that the NZG got a better product from the UK when much of their post WW2 defence equipment was what could be called second rate. The ANZAC frigates that the RNZN received were good quality, and had the usual teething problems, especially Te Kaha which was Ship 02 of the class build after HMAS Anzac. The Project Protector ships that followed, were done on the cheap and design faults showed resulting in problems that took year to rectify.

    The problem as pointed out in the article is cost and building in UK, Euro, US, Canadian or Australian yards is highly expensive. However, with the ANZAC build Te Mana was significantly cheaper to acquire than Te Kaha because by that stage, the build had reached the point where build numbers became a significant cost reduction factor. So being part of a program where a large number of ships are being built does reduce the overall cost as long as you don’t go for bespoke differences to the main program. The RAN Hunter class build is a continuous build program and it does produce significant cost benefits and efficiencies in the long term. If NZ was to join the program, we would have to give Australia cast iron guarantees cast in stone that we would stick with it, because with the ANZAC ship program, not acquiring the third frigate and backed out of the F-16 deal a significant lack of trust on their part has arisen and who can blame them.

    We actually don’t need to acquire the Type 26 per se, as long as the Future NZ Frigate (FFXNZ) has similar capabilities and is able to cooperate and integrate with the RAN / USN and coalition forces. That means it must be able to “talk” to them electronically via Link 16 / 22 DTS, CEC etc., and have a similar capability. For example we could licence build a NZ variant of the OMT Iver Huitfeldt frigate in a South Korean yard with it being fitted out to NZ specifications, or we could look at a new Japanese frigate that, arguably is more capable than the Type 26, could be fitted out to NZ specifications.

    However in the long term, which is the best course to take that will not only gain us the best possible frigate, but also further NZs advantages, politically and diplomatically remains to be see. My own opinion is that we actually need Australia, US and Japan more that we need the UK and Europe, so my own view would be either go all out with Australia or a Japanese ship with US weapons and combat systems.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I forgot to add that two frigates are not enough and at present we do not have any frigate cover at all with Te Mana on the way to Halifax in Canada for its upgrade and Te Kaha in Canada already undergoing its upgrade. Te Kaha will not be fully operational until next year, so we have no naval combat capability at the moment. Two frigates is a very short sighted political decision based purely on flawed political ideology. Three frigates is an absolute minimum, with four being better, especially given that the geostationary situation in the Indo Pacific is continuing to deteriorate.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The Anzac frigates are about 3,600 t full load displacement, 118 m length overall, 14.8 m beam, and 4.35 m draft.
    The comparable figures for the T26 are 8,000+ t full load displacement,150 m length overall, and 21 m beam – draft does not seem to be published, but similar ships are close to 5m.
    I.E. the T26 is pretty much twice the size of an Anzac, or about the same size as a WW2 cruiser

    This seems like an awfully large amount of ship for a small nation like NZ
    Surely we’d be better off with three Anzac-sized ships than two big ones?


  4. Providing replacement frigates for the RNZN. Given that the current world strategy seems to be favouring both the Chinese and Russians and the fact that they are in the SCS and Pacific I favour at least 4 type 26 frigates built either in UK or Australia. This is mainly due to security issues which stipulate that the type 26 or for that matter type 31e general purpose frigates be built in UK, Australia or Canadian shipyards. Also NZ will be expanding its maritime area beyond the EEZ and need to be building or getting build a larger number of OPVs, corvettes etc and perhaps 2 or 3 diesel electric submarines. I know this will increase the defence budget substantially but we live in dangerous times. It is better to be prepared than not at all. Serious investment also required for RNZAF and NZ Army. Of course this will need increase in personnel and NZ Govt need to get their collective heads out of the sand and face hard choices if they want to partake in UK USA Australian defence alliances.and pit costs ton the back burner because it’s false economy.Trade for eg. $USD5 Trillion Dollarso go through South China Sea. Enough said.


  5. I think NZ should be looking at buying a whole stack of modern corvettes instead in the up to 4,000t range that only require 40-60 personnel and order up to 16 of them instead. Maybe something similar but a touch more capable then the arafura class with a bigger gun and missiles.


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