Sea, a UK electronic and security systems producer, announced it will continue work on two Anzac-class frigates in the Royal New Zealand Navy.

The New Zealand Ministry of Defence selected SEA for £26m ($32.9m) contract that will begin the second phase of the Frigate Sustainment-Communciations Project (FS-CP). SEA will now build and install its system, which it designed as part of its first phase, which it completed in 2021.

The custom system reduces through-life costs and associated maintenance of the frigate’s new communication capability; it is a modular system that enables the navy to integrate equipment, including cryptos and radios, regardless of the manufacturer or supplier.

Its open architecture enables interoperability, allowing the Royal New Zealand Navy to communicate with partner navies and support missions with friendly countries such as neighbouring Australia.

The contract is the second of two phases that will deliver new capability from 2024.

Richard Flitton, Managing Director at SEA, stated: “A ship’s communications are integral to any successful mission, and our flexible surface ship system will allow the Royal New Zealand Navy to communicate effectively and securely with partners while also reducing maintenance and associated costs.”

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New Zealand’s naval ambitions

The country’s focus on modernising its armed forces to protect its interests in the Pacific region amid the growing geopolitical influence of China drove New Zealand’s increased defence expenditure, according to GlobalData’s report on the ‘New Zealand Armed Forces – Equipment Inventory’.

According to another GlobalData report, ‘Naval vessels and Surface Combatants Market’, surface combatants are the second largest sector in New Zealand’s defence market. As an island nation, it is prudent for the Pacific country to ensure free-sea lanes of communication. The navy will co-operate closely with the US to secure its maritime boundaries and safeguard its strategic interests; especially as tensions with China grow in the next decade.

As a part of the New Zealand Defence Capability Plan, GlobalData anticipates the country to invest in modernising the country’s naval capability through 2022–27. The light combat vessels segment ranks the highest, with a total investment of $400m, followed by frigates with $77.8m.

GlobalData suggests that the two Anzac-class frigates will be replaced since the navy originally procured them in 1997-1999. New Zealand’s frigate procurement will cost around $1.5bn; another planned programme for the Southern Ocean Patrol Vessel will cost approximately $400m.