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HMNZS Leander class Frigates

By the 1980s, various studies had been carried out into suitable replacements for the ageing frigates OTAGO and TARANAKI whose hulls were now over 20 years old. In 1981 the British Government offered the RNZN two Leander-Class frigates, HMS DIDO and HMS BACCHANTE. As an interim measure the offer was accepted and the ships were commissioned as HMNZS SOUTHLAND and HMNZS WELLINGTON. They replaced TARANAKI which was decommissioned in June 1982 and OTAGO, decommissioned in November 1983. Both Type 12s were subsequently scrapped in Auckland.

This gave the RNZN a combat force of four Leander-Class frigates with the advantages of commonality, but created the problem that all were approximately the same age and would all require replacing in the 1990s. To alleviate this, a comprehensive modernisation and life extension was carried out to WELLINGTON by the Naval Dockyard at Devonport (1983-1987). A similar modernisation of CANTERBURY was completed in September 1990.

SOUTHLAND brought the Ikara anti-submarine weapon system into New Zealand service, but the biggest change for the RNZN was the ADAWS 5 operational computer system. The RNZN established a new branch of software engineers to manage ADAWS and the new NAUTIS command systems that were subsequently installed in WELLINGTON and CANTERBURY. At the same time, the number of Wasp helicopters was increased to seven, allowing flights on all the frigates and, as well, Wasps to be available for MONOWAI and the new ENDEAVOUR.

Commissioned in 1966, HMNZS WAIKATO came equipped with the latest technology including a Wasp anti-submarine helicopter capable of carrying two homing torpedoes to deal with hostile submarines. Two Wasp helicopters were ordered for the WAIKATO, one coming to New Zealand with the ship, and the other as cargo in an Air Force Hercules transport. Between them they formed the Naval Helicopter Section, Helicopter Support Flight, No.3 Battlefield Support Squadron, RNZAF. The squadron was an example of co-operation among the three Armed Services, with the Air Force providing training for Navy and Army pilots and maintenance for Wasp and Sioux helicopters. The Air Force also provided the aircraft maintenance staff who went to sea in the WAIKATO to service the helicopter on board.

In November 1979, the frigate WAIKATO and her Wasp helicopter went to the aid of an injured Russian seaman on board the Soviet trawler ARDATOV in foul weather about 300 miles south-east of Bluff. The man who flew the WAIKATO's Wasp, Lieutenant Joe Tunnicliffe, as he was popularly known, was awarded the Air Force Cross for 'his skilful and courageous flying'. The two men who were winched on to the deck of the ARDATOV, Medical Chief Petty Officer Bill Filmer and Sergeant Barry Woodcock, RNZAF, were also decorated, Filmer with the British Empire Medal and Woodcock with the Queen's Medal for Bravery. The fourth man in the Wasp team, Sergeant Bob Foreman, RNZAF, was awarded the Queen's Commendation for Bravery.

HMNZS CANTERBURY, a Type 12A or Leander class general-purpose frigate was built by Yarrow & Co., Glasgow, from 1969 to 1971. Over the years the ship took part in regular deployments to support British interests in the Far East, as well as exercises in the Pacific with units of the USN. However, a large amount of the ship's time was spent in New Zealand, Australian and South Pacific waters. She relieved OTAGO off Mururoa Atoll in 1973 as part of a high profile protest against French atmospheric nuclear testing. She represented the Royal New Zealand Navy at the Silver Jubilee Naval Review off Spithead in 1977, and the Battle of the Atlantic Commemoration Review off Liverpool in 1995. On a more serious note, she stood off the Fijian coast in case it was necessary to evacuate New Zealanders in the aftermath of the military coup there in May 1987. In her later years of service in the Royal New Zealand Navy, she was used in the training role, and finally decommissioned in 2005. CANTERBURY was then sunk in Northland for a diving wreck.

Length: 113.4 m
Draught: 5.6 m
Displacement: 3,182 tonnes
Machinery: Two steam turbines driving twin shafts
Speed: 30 knots
Complement: 240 (Officers and Ratings)

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