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Five-month deployment for Royal New Zealand Navy vessel includes military exercises, operations and engagements

A series of international operations and exercises in the Western Pacific, South East Asia and East Asia will form part of a significant deployment for the Royal New Zealand Navy’s (RNZN) HMNZS Aotearoa.

19 June, 2024

The RNZN’s maritime sustainment vessel sailed from Devonport Naval Base last week with a Seasprite helicopter on board, and will spend the next five months at sea involved in a series of regional engagements, training exercises and operations.

The largest of these will be Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), which is held in Hawaii every two years. The US-hosted event is the world’s largest multinational maritime warfare exercise and this year New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel and platforms will join 40 surface ships, four submarines, 171 aircraft and more than 25,000 personnel from 30 nations.

The crew from HMNZS Aotearoa will be among approximately 250 NZDF personnel deployed to RIMPAC. The NZDF is also deploying a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-8A Poseidon aircraft and air surveillance personnel, RNZN divers from HMNZS Matataua and staff officers for headquarters roles.

RIMPAC is one part of the ship’s overall five-month deployment, named Operation Crucible. The RNZN regularly makes this deployment to the Asia Pacific region, to carry out engagement activities including training with other navies and replenishing ships at sea.

Commander Joint Forces, Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour, says Operation Crucible demonstrates NZDF capability, and its commitment to the international rules-based system and security and stability in the region.

“This is a continuation of the NZDF’s work with partners to support maritime security and defence matters while enabling collective training exercises,” he said.

During the deployment, HMNZS Aotearoa will also support the NZDF’s contribution to efforts to detect and deter evasions of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions which impose sanctions against North Korea.

North Korea continues to launch ballistic missiles in violation of UNSC resolutions and to import and export prohibited goods and materials. The sanctions are intended to persuade North Korea to denuclearise and abandon its ballistic missile weapons capabilities.

While on operations, HMNZS Aotearoa will maintain a presence, conduct surveillance, and re-fuel ships at sea, including those from partner nations conducting maritime patrols to detect and deter sanctions evasions.

Maritime Component Commander, Commodore Garin Golding, says the RNZN has a long history of deployments in the Asia Pacific area.

This is an important deployment, enabling our highly trained personnel to further upskill while working alongside partner militaries in the region, undertaking both exercises and operational missions.

“The Aotearoa’s participation in efforts to detect and deter UNSC sanctions evasions is a great opportunity, one I know the ship’s company is looking forward to undertaking,” Commodore Golding said.

For the Commanding Officer of HMNZS Aotearoa, Commander Rob Welford, the deployment is shaping up to be one of the career highlights for the crew.

“The ship’s company are really excited as this deployment is exactly the reason why they joined the Navy,” Commander Welford said. 

“They’ll be sailing more than 30,000 nautical miles, conducting port visits in four countries and creating bonds with their shipmates over the next 18 weeks that will last a lifetime.

“Plus they will be advancing New Zealand’s interests from the sea, one of the key reasons our Navy personnel choose to serve.”