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Interview with Chief of Navy: The future for the Royal New Zealand Navy

Line of Defence Magazine, Summer 2017/18

RADM Martin: "You don’t just purchase a Navy, you own and build it as a society together."RADM Martin: "You don’t just purchase a Navy, you own and build it as a society together."


Last year the Royal New Zealand Navy celebrated its 75th anniversary and its past achievements. In this interview with Dr Peter Greener, Rear Admiral John Martin, Chief of Navy, notes that it is now important to turn to the future – a future focused on building a Navy that will serve the interests of the nation for decades to come.


PG: With the breadth of expectations of a twenty-first century navy, what is the Royal New Zealand Navy’s mission and vision?

Rear Admiral Martin: Our mission is to advance New Zealand's interests from the sea; this is the essence of what we do. Our role is to contribute to the security of our nation, and the people of New Zealand. We are an internationalised country heavily reliant on international trade and secure trade routes, with 99 percent of our exports and imports by weight travelling by sea.

Whilst New Zealand itself has an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of more than four million square kilometers – one of the largest in the world – we also have responsibility in the South Pacific for the realm EEZs of Tokelau, Niue and the Cook Islands, together a further area of more than two and a half million square kilometers.

This December the Ross Sea Region Marine Protected Area comes into force and that covers some 1.55 million square kilometres, of which some 1.12 million square kilometres is fully protected, and that protection will require an increased presence in that region.

Taken together, this is a vast maritime domain and this in turn drives our vision, which is to be a world-class Navy for a large maritime nation. We are working to provide a world-class naval system for a fully integrated New Zealand Defence Force by 2025.


PG: Given that ambition, the new challenge seems to be sustaining and operating a Navy that faces lengthy capability gaps – and the impact on training.  How can the Navy manage this?

Rear Admiral Martin: As we enter a phase of upgrade and renewal we do face some challenges here. The tanker HMNZS Endeavour has just been decommissioned after 30 years of faithful service, and the dive tender HMNZS Manawanui is due to be decommissioned in February 2018.

Then we will have each of the frigates going through the Frigate Systems Upgrade, so we have a reduction in the type and size of the training envelope.

Here we will draw on the relationships with our partner nations to help bridge the capability gap. In recent years, we have provided training opportunities for the Royal Navy, Royal Australian Navy and Royal Canadian Navy and they have indicated their desire to now reciprocate.

For example, the RAN have indicated a willingness to assist with Mine Counter Measures training and with discrete naval maritime survey training. We are in the process of exploring possibilities for training with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in the UK and will ratchet that up as the delivery of the Endeavour’s enhanced replacement, HMNZS Aotearoa, approaches.

We also now have sophisticated shore-based simulator systems which significantly help reduce the training burden at sea. In addition, Navy intends to operate all four Inshore Patrol Vessels in order to maximise resource and border protection response options, contribute to sea training and prepare for our forthcoming new and enhanced capabilities.


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PG: So, with regards to capability, the build of the Maritime Sustainment Capability ship Aotearoa begins next year with delivery due in early 2020. What is the situation with regards to the ice-strengthened Ocean Patrol Vessel and the Littoral Warfare Support Capability (LOSC)?

Rear Admiral Martin: The 2016 Defence White Paper placed more emphasis on Southern Ocean and Antarctic operations and underscored the need for an ice-strengthened Ocean Patrol Vessel (OPV3) that would increase our contribution in the Southern Ocean and help meet our responsibilities under CCAMLR. We envisage OPV3 being part of the new fleet before 2025.

The Littoral Operations Support Capability (LOSC) is one of the centerpieces for the NZDF’s joint capability. The LOSC will allow the NZDF to back up reconnaissance aircraft with a rapidly deployable ISR asset in the South Pacific when disaster strikes.

It will also be equipped to provide the necessary support to other ground missions depending on the situation. So, you see that the LOSC will provide a unique regional capability and has been highly considered in the DWP 2016.

We are now in the situation where we have to revise the scope of the LOSC. In the meantime, we will explore a range of options to procure a replacement ship which will allow the continued generation of an NZDF diving capability. However, the ultimate requirement for the LOSC will remain.


PG: Linked to this, can you comment on progress with the development of the Frigate Systems Upgrade (FSU). How important is this upgrade to maintaining a naval combat capability?

Rear Admiral Martin: The recent Platform Systems Upgrade (PSU) provided our ANZACS with state of the art operating and propulsion management systems. However, the FSU is essential for maintaining a viable RNZN combat capability.

With the complexity of contemporary threats, we require contemporary systems to meet those threats.  In order to integrate with international task forces we know that we need ships that can deal with the most modern challenges. The FSU will allow that to occur and provide a viable and credible combat platform out to 2030.

The Government has demonstrated their commitment to maintaining this capability with their recent decision to approve the installation phase.


PG: In reviewing the capability of the Navy’s combat platforms, is the RNZN taking heed of any lessons that might have been identified from the recent tragic US Navy collisions at sea involving the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain?

Rear Admiral Martin: We have been very fortunate to have access through the Chief of Naval Operations to the findings on these collisions and have taken a long, hard look at our training systems.

We have identified a number of ways in which collaboration between Bridge and Combat Systems staff can be better generated. The Bridge team and Operations team must work hand-in-glove and we will be maximising the use of simulators at Devonport for training in this regard.

Perhaps what was highlighted most though was the extent of the damage each ship took, yet survived. A ship built to civilian specifications simply doesn’t have the same degree of survivability as a warship.


PG: In looking then to the future for the Navy, what will ‘the Next Navy’, the Navy of 2025, look like?

Rear Admiral Martin: We shall have fewer ships, but a larger Navy. What I mean by that is we will have nine or ten ships rather than the eleven we have now, but they will provide significantly more capability. We will have introduced six modernised or new platforms: the two ANZAC frigates, the new replenishment ship HMNZS Aotearoa, a dive support ship, the new Ocean Patrol Vessel and the LOSC.

The current Navy has a combined tonnage of 34, 571 tonnes; the next Navy will be in excess of 55,000 tonnes. Navy will require an increase in personnel to 2,253 by 2021, with further increases needed after that out to 2025.

Although there will be greater automation at sea, we will need more mission support personnel ashore, particularly in the cyber and communications space. Information warfare has been a central capability of Navy over many years, and Navy has often been at the leading edge of communication systems development.

Further development here was signaled in the 2016 Defence White Paper with an increase in intelligence personnel. We now need the development of a naval cyber capability to contribute to the response to the increasing range of threats faced by the Defence Force.


PG: You have already indicated that Navy will be part of an NZDF that will be fully integrated by 2025. In this regard, how is the concept of the Joint Task Force progressing?

Rear Admiral Martin: The Joint Task Force concept is so much more than that already. We have worked hard to integrate both systems and trades across all three Services.

We are actively working on the integration of the Navy, Army and Air Force C4ISR (Command, Control, Communication, Computing, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) systems.

However, if you looked at our most recent major exercise, Southern Katipo, you would have seen not just the combination of the three Services of the NZDF and their international military counterparts, but the participation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), Customs and Police. The Joint Task Force concept  is a significant national asset across all arms of the government.


PG: What unique value does the Navy bring to address maritime security challenges and opportunities?

Rear Admiral Martin: First and foremost, our knowledge and understanding of the environment and the physical challenges associated with creating generations of mariners. We take young people and train them, develop their ability to ask questions, provide them with leadership skills and witness their growth in confidence. They then sail into some of the most treacherous waters in the world.

There are then the relationships that we have within the region. You yourself wrote in the last issue of Line of Defence on the work the Royal New Zealand Navy is doing to pursue meaningful relationships with navies throughout the South West Pacific who see us as  a trusted partner.

Of course, we are experts in naval combat and naval constabulary and we are able to do things that other services are not equipped to do. We are working to be the team player of choice for a number of government departments and security partner with other arms of government.


PG: Looking further ahead, what then might be the characteristics of the Navy beyond 2025 – the future Navy? How does Navy approach this given that futures can be so uncertain as we look out to 2035 and beyond?

Rear Admiral Martin: ‘The Navy After Next’ is our by-line for the ongoing evolution of the Navy that allows us to offer options to the Government. It’s not about defining platforms, rather more about developing scenarios and a mix of alternatives which might best meet the Government’s requirements of the Navy in the future.

We need to understand the demographics and education of our future workforce. As part of the NZDF we are amongst one of the largest education and training institutions in the country. Many of the jobs that the people in the Navy after Next will do haven’t yet been invented but we must develop a system that caters for those.

The Navy of today and tomorrow is a significant investment. You don’t just purchase a Navy, you own and build it as a society together.


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