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WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND — A request for information (RfI) has been issued for a so-called “Maritime Projection and Sustainment Capability” (MPSC) to replace the Royal New Zealand Navy’s fleet replenishment tanker, HMNZS Endeavour, by 2018.
The International Maritime Organisation single-hull tanker compliance requirements meant the 453-foot tanker’s fuel load was reduced (during 2008-2009) from 7,500 tons to 5,500 tons, and there are obsolescence issues.
The RfI calls for carrying a minimum of 8,000 tons of ship fuel and a minimum of 1,700 tons of aviation fuel, the latter a quantum increase from Endeavour’s 150 tons of aircraft fuel, used for hot refueling of helicopters.
The tanker’s helicopter platform was designed for the Navy’s then-Westland Wasp helicopters and was rendered obsolete when, in 1998, only a decade after the ship was commissioned, the Wasps were replaced with the larger, heavier Kaman Seasprite.
So there is no surprise that the RfI includes a requirement for operating medium-sized helicopters (such as New Zealand’s SH-2G Seasprites and recently introduced NH90) and a costed option for operating a CH-47 Chinook.
Traditional roles are, of course, to be maintained.
“The replacement vessel will be capable of refueling and sustaining military forces both at sea (underway and midocean) and from the sea (to forces ashore). It should also be able to sustain land forces, and support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions,” says the RfI.
A senior defense official told Defense News that replenishment at sea will be the core capability, with incremental capabilities as effective optional extras.
‘Defense is under fiscal pressure, so there is no guarantee that any particular project will be approved. This [RfI] is just to find how much it might cost.”
Not all costs have gone up, however, for technology has wrought some improvements.
“The old [Leander-class] frigates needed fuel all the time, whereas the Anzac [frigates] have much greater range,” said the official. “You might want aviation fuel if you have a disaster in the South Pacific, you might want fuel for all sorts of other vessels apart from [warship] deployments. Australia, to some degree, relies on us for a tanker, so there are a whole lot of reasons to have [one].”
Subject to the necessary government approvals, the contract award is anticipated for the first quarter of 2015 with a delivery date of December 2017.
The RfI specifies operating an organic embarked helicopter up to and including the NH90 and SH-2G Seasprite, although it mentions operating a second helicopter and asks for a costed option to operate/refuel CH-47 Chinook-sized helicopters.
Also specified is the capability for lift on/lift off operations (up to and including 25 tons) to transfer embarked cargo and provision for upper deck stowage of embarked vehicles and a minimum of 12 shipping containers.
There is to be a minimum of 260 lane meters for vehicles and the MPSC also is required to operate two 65-ton landing craft.
Performance requirements include a minimum 8,000 nautical mile-range at 16 knots, with a top speed of 18 knots.
The RfI refers to a nominal ship’s company of 70, plus up to 50 passengers.
Expected to have a minimum service life of 25 years, the MPSC platform’s maximum fully laden design draft is not to exceed 26.2 feet and the ship should be able to operate (from December to March) in Antarctic waters as far south as the McMurdo Sounds.
Armament includes “an appropriate number” of manually laid 0.5-inch machine guns and/or space and weight for a close in weapon system such as Phalanx.