Wellington, New Zealand — New Zealand’s Ministry of Defence has issued a request for information (RfI) for an “Underwater Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (UWISR)” system.
It may seem axiomatic that such an obviously maritime nation as New Zealand would maintain a credible anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability, yet in recent years the focus of the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s six Orion aircraft has been on overland intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
The missions system upgrade that marked the Orions’ transition from P-3K to P-3K2 status (in 2011) was accompanied by renaming the Maritime Patrol Force the Airborne Surveillance and Response Force.
In August 2008, Air Commodore Gavin Howse, then Air Component commander at Headquarters Joint Forces New Zealand, told Defense News, “we will still be able to do maritime surveillance, but the capabilities on board will make [the P-3K2] an excellent overland surveillance aircraft.”
However, it appears the ASW role was neglected, for in December 2011 Air Vice Marshal Peter Stockwell, chief of the Air Force, told Defense News, “We are only maintaining a fairly rudimentary capability in the ASW world at the moment.”
However, he added, “There is certainly discussion around the need to modernize the airborne ASW role.”
Yet, in November 2012, when asked about ASW capability, Lt. Gen. Rhys Jones, chief of the Defence Force, said, “It is impossible for us to counter every threat, every issue, and that’s where we need to balance things up.”
“Submarine proliferation in the area is growing. Is it going to be an issue for us? Yes, it will in the future … but is it a greater priority than overland surveillance or other surveillance that we might need to have in our region?”
The UWISR RfI seeks information, by April 4, on a replacement for the P-3K2 Orion’s existing acoustics system, a magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) system and an improved airdropped stores ejection system.
Ground training equipment, including a postmission acoustic analysis system and a MAD simulator are included in the RfI.
This suggests the Air Force’s ASW capabilities may not remain “rudimentary” as Asia-Pacific submarine fleets expand and modernize.