17 Mei 2014
New Zealand's OPVs : HMNZS Otago and HMNZS Wellington (photo : Militaryphotos)
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is looking into the possibility of acquiring a third offshore patrol vessel (OPV) for the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN).
The RNZN currently operates two 85 m Otago-class OPVs, HMNZS Otago and HMNZS Wellington , commissioned in February and May 2010, respectively. The vessels have a range of 6,000 n miles and can carry a core crew of 35 and a flight crew of 10 for its helicopters. Both ships are deployed in long-range patrol missions around New Zealand, the Pacific, and Southern Oceans.
"We learned that offshore patrol vessels cost a lot less to run [than frigates]," said Lieutenant Commander Owen Gee from the NZDF on 14 May at the MilSatCom Asia Pacific 2014 conference in Singapore. "If acquired, we plan to utilise it in a constabulary role and this releases our frigates for other operations."
Lt Cdr Gee cited fiscal challenges as a factor in the navy's turn towards increasing the number of OPVs in its fleet. The NZDF needs to reconcile increasing operational demands with the government's target of saving between NZD350 million (USD302 million) to NZD450 million in armed forces spending per annum by 2014/2015.
Lt Cdr Gee also revealed that the NZDF plans to equip all three OPVs with satellite communication systems. "We have an Exclusive Economic Zone 15 times the size of the New Zealand land mass. There is no way we can rely on terrestrial communications. We will have to equip our vessels with satellite communications," Lt Cdr Gee said.
No timeline or specifications of the possible OPV acquisition was provided.
IHS Jane's reported on 18 March that the RNZN is considering the possibility of upgrading its Otago-class OPVs with the capability to launch and recover unmanned aerial vehicles, although no concrete plans have yet been confirmed.