Germany’s former foreign minister on life after NATO

German politician Joschka Fischer has had a remarkable career.  From street violence and helping to set up the Green party, he matured into the foreign minister and vice-chancellor of a united Germany, serving until 2005.  His understanding of power politics led him to support the use of force in the former Yugoslavia, though he drew the line at getting rid of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Now, with NATO leaders dispersing after their meeting outside London, he has turned his attention to the future of the alliance (read here). Continue reading “Germany’s former foreign minister on life after NATO”

King Air 350s might play a role in civil maritime security

Will the RNZAF’s new turbo prop Hawker Pacific King Air 350s fill part of the role identified in the 2019 Defence Capability Plan for civil maritime security?

The King Airs already train the air force’s new navigator and air warfare officers at Ohakea.  Now one has been identified at the Hawker Pacific base in Australia with what resembles a maritime surveillance radome on the lower fuselage.

The 2019 plan says the maritime security strategy will provide

“ … air surveillance capabilities that enhance all-of-Government maritime domain awareness in NZ and the Southern Ocean. The capabilities delivered through this investment will be dedicated to civil surveillance requirements, with Defence support for their delivery and operation.”

The intention is to free up the new Boeing P-8A Poseidons to fly more missions in the South Pacific and further afield. Investment in a range of capabilities will be considered, including satellite surveillance, unmanned aerial vehicles and traditional fixed-wing surveillance aircraft. Continue reading “King Air 350s might play a role in civil maritime security”

Australians hope NZ will buy Hunter class frigates but size and price will come into Defence considerations

Oops.  We messed up when we posted an item under the heading Navy firms its thinking about frigate replacements.

We posted the same item in March under the heading Navy planners consider replacements for ageing Anzac Class frigates.

Other media are apt to blame “gremlins” when this sort of thing happens.  At Point of Order we try to eschew superstition and the supernatural and, in this case, we happen to know carelessness was the culprit.  

Here’s what we should have posted ….  

THE NEXT major defence project on the books after the C-130J Hercules and the Boeing P-8A Poseidons are replacements for the RNZN’s two Anzac Class frigates Te Mana and Te Kaha. While these are due to remain in service until late in the next decade, planning is under way.

Across the Tasman, the Australians expect the RNZN will select the new Hunter class frigates being built by ASC in South Australia to replace the RAN’s Anzacs.  These are essentially the British BAe Type 26 ships being constructed for the Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy.

However, within the Ministry of Defence and RNZAN, minds are far from settled.  The Hunters are bigger vessels intended to operate at the high end of Allied fleets based around aircraft carrier task forces.  Our Anzacs have had to work hard to keep up with US forces when operating in the Gulf.

So, planners are watching carefully a new programme under way to build a new frigate for the US Navy, designated FFG X and intended to replace the Navy’s Oliver Perry class vessel.  They will be smaller, around 4000 tons and equipped with the latest systems and weapons.

Another candidate could be the US Coastguards’ new Legend class high endurance cutters.  These are essentially frigates but carry the traditional Coastguard “Cutter” designation as they have a law enforcement role alongside a naval function.

The USCG is building 11 ships, 418ft long, displacing 4500 tons with a maximum speed of 28 knots, a range of 12,000 miles and a crew of about 148. They are powered by diesel-electric and gas.

According to the Coastguard it will have automated weapon systems capable of “stopping rogue vessels far from shore” with state-of-the-art command and control systems to provide inter-operability with the Navy, a flight deck and a full suite of sensors and defence systems.

USCG cutters have been exercising with the RNZN and RAN in the Pacific and the Coastguard Command expects deployments to this region will increase. In a sense the RNZN’s role is similar to that of the US Coastguard.

The two forces know each other well especially with the USCG icebreakers working from NZ into the Antarctic.

Both the US Navy and the US Coastguard recognise the need for more and cheaper warships to patrol areas (such as the Pacific) which have a lower-level of threat.

Even the Royal Navy has recognised the need for more smaller warships and has chosen the Babcock-Thales Group, the type T31 general purpose frigate with five ships with an average production cost of £250 million per ship. This is based on the Danish Iver Huitfeldt-class frigates with four diesel engines rated providing a maximum speed of at least 29 knots and range of 9,300 nautical miles at 18 knots.

Navy firms its thinking about frigate replacements

Naval opinion is firming on the next class 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 – notably in the Gulf – with only two frigates in the fleet.

A decade ago a National Govt declined to order a third.

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 in excess of 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 undergoing 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 $65.4m, 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.

US approves sale of  Hercules for RNZAF

The US State Department has approved a Foreign Military Sale to New Zealand of five C-130J Hercules aircraft and related equipment for an estimated cost of $US1.4 billion.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency has delivered the required certification notifying Congress.  Significantly, the US has described NZ as a “major ally”.

New Zealand has asked for five aircraft, 24 Rolls Royce AE-2100D3 turboprop engines (20 installed, 4 spares) along with navigation and electronic systems, personnel training and training equipment, US Govt and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistical and program support.

The US says this will support its foreign policy and national security by helping to improve the security of a major ally that is a force for political stability, and economic progress in the Asia-Pacific region.

The proposed sale will improve New Zealand’s capability to meet current and future threats by enhancing its current airlift capability.

This proposed sale will provide the capability to support national, United Nations, and other coalition operations.  This purchase also includes sensors and performance improvements that will assist NZ during extensive maritime surveillance and reconnaissance as well as improve its search and rescue capability.

For good measure, the extra cargo capacity and aircraft performance will greatly increase New Zealand’s Antarctic mission capabilities while simultaneously increasing safety margins.

The RNZAF currently flies five 50-year-old C-l30H aircraft and will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment and support into its armed forces according to the State Department. The prime contractor will be Lockheed Martin, Ft Worth, Texas

Bell promotes its UH-1Y as a chopper to replace RNZN’s Seasprite

Might the trusty Bell Iroquois return to service in the NZ Defence Force? Bell Helicopters thinks it might – as a replacement for the RNZN’s Kaman Seasprites serving aboard the frigates.

Bell is to offer its latest “Huey”, the UH-1Y, but it is a very different beast from the Iroquois which spent 49 years in hard service with the RNZAF between 1966 and 2015.

Currently in service with the US Marines, it remains in production but represents a major advance with two General Electric T700 engines as opposed to one in the original Iroquois, a glass cockpit, modern fuselage construction and composite rotor blades much resistant to damage and deterioration.

Bell says the new model is completely “marinized” during construction, preparing it for operations at sea. The rotors can be folded within minutes for storage aboard ships. A special bracket is used to secure the blades in place in high winds.  It can carry a range of weapons and missiles.

With sales already concluded with Bahrain and the Czech Republic, Bell identifies Asia-Pacific as a potential market with opportunities in South Korea, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand. It also believes that the UH-1Y is suitable to replace the Seasprites due for retirement in the mid-decade.

Time for a new airport on the North Shore?

Air NZ CEO Chris Luxon raised Defence hackles with his proposal to use the RNZAF base Whenuapai for commercial services. The air force has long resisted this for reasons of security, safety and the absence of land for passenger terminals and parking.

Cynics reckon this is an opening salvo from Luxon who seems headed to Parliament sooner rather than later. Sometimes the airline thinks it is the only business in town.

Continue reading “Time for a new airport on the North Shore?”