New Zealand Navy Chief Sees Strengthening Relationship with U.S. Navy
By DAVID PUGLIESE, Special Correspondent
VICTORIA, British Columbia — The Royal New Zealand Navy’s (RNZN’s) top officer says he sees his service’s relationship with the U.S. Navy strengthening in the coming years as the two organizations develop a more formal framework when it comes to training and interoperability.
Chief of the Navy Rear Adm. John Martin told Seapower that the RNZN currently has an excellent relationship with the U.S. Navy and he only sees that improving
“It will strengthen with continued interaction, with the ability to work together and conduct operations and exercises,” he said. “I see it strengthening as we develop a more formal relationship in terms of how we work together and we develop together.”
Martin said that formal relationship is about having a well-coordinated understanding about “different systems of training and how we ensure interoperability is created. It’s about having a good framework for our relationship.”
Martin acknowledged that the ability to expand the relationship with the U.S. Navy is dependent on his service’s capability, which he characterized as modest. However, he noted the intent is to work as much with the U.S. Navy as possible.
Martin was in Victoria meeting with officers of the Royal Canadian Navy as well as being briefed on the progress on the modernization program that Lockheed Martin Canada is undertaking on the RNZN’s frigates. Over the next two years, two Anzac frigates will be upgraded at the Seaspan shipyard in Victoria.
Martin said the RNZN will be taking part in the U.S.-led Rim of the Pacific exercise later this month, providing a frigate, command and control personnel, a dive team and mine countermeasure specialists.
He also noted that last year one of his service’s frigates, HMNZS Te Kaha, integrated into the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group in the Western Pacific. Martin said that after reviewing the lessons learned from that mission, he was pleased about the outcome.
“We found our training was up to scratch,” he said. “We also learned that in actual fact we add particular value to the strike group, particularly when it came to escort forces. That gave us a lot of confidence.”
HMNZS Te Kaha augmented the U.S. 7th Fleet forces after the USS Fitzgerald was severely damaged during a collision with a Philippine-flagged container ship in June 2017. Seven Sailors from Fitzgerald were killed in the accident.
Martin said having HMNZS Te Kaha augment U.S. forces in the Pacific was an example of what allies do for each other. He noted that USS Sampson and its crew were among those allied sailors responding to a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck New Zealand in 2016. The Sampson crew provided engineering and medical aid, as well as helicopter support to first responders in the earthquake zone.
Martin said the RNZN was able to return that support by providing one of its frigates to the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group.
“We were able to help out and that reflects the deep thanks we felt for Sampson coming out to help us,” he said.
The rear admiral said New Zealand is also in the process of acquiring a new naval tanker that will be ice-strengthened for operations in Antarctica . The ship is being built by the South Korean firm Hyundai Heavy Industries and is expected to be delivered in 2020. It is being designed to Polar Class 6 requirements. Among its duties will be to help in resupplying New Zealand’s Scott Base in Antarctica as well as the U.S. science base McMurdo Station.
The Royal Canadian Navy is also trying to interest the RNZN in acquiring its new Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships. Any such purchase would be a decision for the New Zealand government, but Martin said during his visit to Canada he travelled to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to see the first Arctic patrol vessel now under construction. The Royal Canadian Navy will operate up to six Arctic patrol ships, with the first now scheduled to be in the water next year.