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New Zealand launches $21M frigate comms upgrade project

Royal New Zealand Navy frigate HMNZS Te Mana
RNZN file photo of Anzac-class frigate HMNZS Te Mana

The Royal New Zealand Navy’s two Anzac-class frigates, HMNZS Te Kaha and Te Mana, are getting a communications systems upgrade, the defense ministry has announced.

Cabinet has approved NZ$21.2 million (approx. US$14.7M) for the design of a new frigate communications system, which will include a new control system, modern radios, data and voice communication systems.

“The advances in communications technologies since the frigates were built in the mid-90s have been huge, so this is a great opportunity to future proof their communications systems,” said defense minister Peeni Henare.

“This communications upgrade will ensure the naval combat force can keep pace with changes in technology, and continue to carry out the broad range of tasks requested of it by the Government.”

The upgrade will ensure the ships can handle the increasing volume of data generated by modern communications systems, and operate with other New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) capabilities and coalition partners.

New Zealand is launching the communications upgrade after the first of two ships in the class completed the combat systems upgrade several months ago. HMNZS Te Kaha returned home from Canada in December last year after starting upgrade work in March 2018. Sister ship HMNZS Te Mana started the process a year later, in March 2019.

“The frigate systems upgrade undertaken in Canada has seen the operational life of the frigates extended out to the mid-2030s, with enhanced combat capabilities, surveillance and counter measures,” said Peeni Henare.

“This upgrade will ensure our personnel have the equipment and capability they rely on to deliver what the people of New Zealand need.”

Following completion of the design, the project will deliver a phased build and integration of the new equipment and systems on board each ship, with new capability available from 2024.

The two Anzac-class frigates are the only Royal New Zealand Navy ships capable of operating across the full-spectrum of NZDF operations, including combat roles with coalition partners, search and rescue, and humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations.