04 April 2011

NZ Navy to Join US Led Exercise

04 April 2011

USS Cleveland LPD 7 during exercise (photo : US Navy)

The HMNZS Canterbury leaves Devonport this morning for New Zealand's first real joint exercise with the United States since the Anzus rift in 1984.

And Defence Minister Wayne Mapp has revealed New Zealand has been invited back into the next "Rimpac" naval exercises in 2012, a full-scale maritime exercise conducted with the United States and allied navies around the Pacific Rim.

New Zealand has been excluded since the Anzus rift.

The crew of the Canterbury will commemorate Anzac Day with the crew of the USS Cleveland, the lead vessel in the current exercise undertaking engineering and medical work in the Pacific.

The Canterbury's exercise, dubbed Pacific Partnership, is a US-led humanitarian mission initially to Tonga and Vanuatu which involves New Zealand, Australia, France and the United States.

The Cleveland will later go to East Timor, Papua New Guinea and the Federated States of Micronesia.

As well as the USS Cleveland, the US Coast Guard and two Australian landing craft will take part and a French Puma helicopter will be on board the Canterbury.

"It is a different scale of activity for New Zealand vis-a-vis the United States than we've hitherto done, but in an area of practical value to the people of the Pacific," Dr Mapp said.

Rimpac is a major US-led exercise in the north Pacific undertaken every two years with countries including Australia, Japan, Chile, Peru, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

After undertaking repairs at Tonga's Nuiatoputapu island which was hit by the 2009 tsunami, the Canterbury and Cleveland will work closely in Vanuatu where they will swap about a dozen personnel. Dr Mapp said: "There is no doubt that the quality and tone of the relationship has changed."

The USS Cleveland (LPD-7) is a 172m vessel with displacement of 9734 tonnes, commissioned in 1967 with a speed of 21 knots. The HMNZS Canterbury is a multi-role vessel, 131m and displacement of 9000 tonnes, with a speed of 19 knots. It was commissioned in 2007.

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