Auckland, NZPA Feb 24 - The 13-year-old navy frigate HMNZS Te Kaha is back in action after a major refit which saw it get two new diesel engines.
The ship has been out of action since July last year as part of a planned maintenance and mid-life engine upgrade.
It was put back in commission earlier this month but would leave for its next deployment to South East Asia in April without its Phalanx weapons system -- a last line of defence against missiles.
The 20mm rapid-fire machine gun was sent to America for an upgrade which would give the ship protection against fast inshore attack boats and helicopters and was not due back in time to be fitted before Te Kaha left for South East Asia. The Phalanx upgrade for Te Kaha and its sister ship, HMNZS Te Mana was expected to cost up to $25 million.
Lieutenant Commander Chris Fleck, the officer in charge of the engine upgrade, said Te Kaha would be on a diplomatic and training mission in South East Asia and was not on operational duties.
Te Mana was due to begin its engine refit next month and would be out of action until October.
The new engines were part of a package which would cost about $57m for both ships. It also included internal enhancements so the ship could better cope with additional weight from new gear added over the years, an upgrade of the control and monitoring systems and an upgrade of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
The control and monitoring systems upgrade, and the heating, ventilation and air conditioning upgrades were likely to start next year or the year after.
Lt Cdr Fleck said the new engines would be more economic but would not allow the ships to go faster than their top speed of 27 knots.
The old engines could push each ship to 18 knots before a gas turbine kicked in for high-speed running.
Lt Cdr Fleck said the new engines would go to 21.5 knots before gas turbines took over, making the ships more economic to operate.
The new engines were also "environmentally compliant", he said.
Te Kaha was expected to be in commission at least until 2025 and Te Mana would last until 2028.
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