New Zealand’s navy is something of a joke (as is our Air Force, but that’s another subject). You’d think that an island nation with one of the world’s largest marine Exclusive Economic Zones would have a Navy disproportionate to its economic strength, but in practice it works the other way round. We take the Russian approach of relying on the local environment to protect us. If you can mount a credible invasion across 2000 miles of the Southern Ocean we’re not going to beat you at sea anyway, so why bother trying: we’ll fight you on the beaches (or more accurately, in the high country forests). So our Navy is basically a Coastguard - it does Search & Rescue, Fisheries patrol, and civil defence, and flies the flag occasionally in international peacekeeping efforts.
With that as context, it is with pride and unnecessary fanfare that the Royal New Zealand Navy took delivery today of its largest and most advanced vessel ever: HMS Aotearoa, a fleet auxiliary oiler!
In fairness, she’s actually a pretty cool ship, even if she’s not exactly a Ticonderoga. The design brief says she needs to operate year-round in the deep Southern Ocean (which makes the North Atlantic look like childs play), replenish Antarctic bases, and sail through hurricanes to be first on the scene for disaster relief among the Pacific Islands. Oh, and do all the other fleet auxiliary stuff like refuel other naval vessels, operate as a hospital ship, conduct helicopter operations and intimidate fishing vessels.
The result is basically a tramp steamer built like a brick shithouse, with a world-first ice-strengthened wave-piercing design, heated flight deck and exterior equipment that allow operations in -25C weather, and a desalination plant that’ll keep a small city alive. And of course a Phalanx CIWS, because Navy.
Oh, and she’s a whole 12ft longer than the RNZN’s previous largest ship, the WWII cruiser Achilles. Whoopee!
Plus, for on-topic content: she’s a Hyundai. Designed and built by Hyundai Heavy Industries.