New Zealand’s Defence Capability Plan 2019, published in June 2019, has scoped planned investments in the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) out to 2030, while further identifying potential investments to be made in the post-2030 period.
Reflecting the key tenets of the Strategic Defence Policy Statement 2018, which anticipates an increase in the frequency of responses the NZDF will be required to undertake in the South Pacific region, the Defence Capability Plan 2019 puts a heavy emphasis on improving maritime capabilities. Accordingly, this ‘Pacific Reset’ will have a profound impact on the equipment priorities for the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) in the years ahead.
In the decade ahead, the focus for maritime investments will shift to the patrol and sealift forces, with each current RNZN vessel requiring replacement within the timeframe of the new Defence Capability Plan. The intention is to transition to a force design incorporating more specialised vessels - including enhanced sealift and an ice-strengthened patrol vessel - to provide the NZDF with increased and more relevant capabilities.
One key element of the plan is improving airlift and sealift capabilities to better support challenges in the Pacific region. In the latter case, the demand placed on the multirole vessel HMNZS Canterbury “has highlighted the criticality of effective sealift,” while experience accrued over the last decade has “highlighted the operational and environmental limits of [Canterbury], as well as the risks inherent in maintaining a sole vessel of this type”.
Recognising the value of sealift to humanitarian and disaster relief, and the sustainment of deployed forces, the Defence Capability Plan 2019 has set out plans to acquire an additional and ‘enhanced’ sealift vessel in the mid-2020s, stating, “Operating alongside HMNZS Canterbury, this acquisition will provide two sealift vessels, and will greatly improve the effectiveness of the [NZDF], and the resilience of the nation, and the region,” said the plan.