HMNZS Otago (F111)

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USS Bennington (CVS-20) refueling HMNZS Otago (F111) in 1968
USS Bennington refueling Otago, 1968
New Zealand
Name: HMNZS Otago
Namesake: Otago Province
Builder: John I. Thornycroft & Company, Woolston, Hampshire
Launched: 11 December 1958 [1]
Commissioned: 22 June 1960 [2]
Decommissioned: 7 November 1983
Fate: Sold and broken up, 1987
General characteristics
Class and type: Rothesay-class Type 12 frigate
  • 2,144 tonnes standard
  • 2,577 tonnes full load
Length: 370 ft (113 m)
Beam: 41 ft (12 m)
Draught: 17.4 ft (5 m)
Propulsion: 2-shaft double-reduction geared steam turbines
Speed: 30 knots (56 km/h)
Range: 400 tons oil fuel, 5,200 nautical miles (9,630 km) at 12 knots (22 km/h)
Complement: originally 219, later 240

HMNZS Otago (F111) was a Rothesay-class Type 12 frigate, or separately designated, Otago-class frigate acquired from the Royal Navy by the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) before completion. Otago and Taranaki significantly differ from the Royal Navy Rothesays as the RNZN is a conventionally armed navy, and the New Zealand ships have a slightly higher level of conventional capability. with the long range Type 177 sonar to combine with the only operational MK 20 heavyweight torpedo,(where the RN versions in most cases had an accurate short range Type 174, initially) and provide more comfort for the crew in cafeteria and bunk bedding. She was launched on 11 December 1958 by Princess Margaret,[1] and was commissioned into the Royal New Zealand Navy on 22 June 1960. As ordered the frigate was intended to mount a twin Mk 5 40mm for close in AA to supplement the 4.5 turret but by 1960 the RNZN had made the decision to rely on missiles in the form of Seacat for AA as soon as the system could be refitted and the Otago and sister Taranaki were fitted only with a single 40mm on completion with Seacat being refitted in NZ in 1963-64. During the confrontation with Indonesia in 1964-6, HMNZS Otago, in line with most RN frigates was refitted with a couple of WW2 20mm single mounts for junk bashing, its sister Taranaki (and probably Otago also) had Mk 3 40 mm Bofors temporarily fitted for this, in the unusual arrangement of the port mounting placed further forward where the triple torpedo tubes would later be mounted, and the starboard mounting further aft where the 20mm mounts would later be positioned. Later in the decade US Mk 32 tubes were fitted for Mk 44/46 torpedoes in place of the tubes for ineffective RN Mk20 torpedoes, in line with the ANZUS alliance, the UK's 1968 decision to withdraw from East of Suez and the belief of the RNZN anti sub specialists and director of plans that Limbo mortars were useless for anything but killing huge numbers of fish in the Hauraki Gulf.

The ship was named after the province of Otago in New Zealand's South Island, and associated with the city of Dunedin.

Service history[edit]

Otago took part in various SEATO (Southeast Asia Treaty Organization) deployments, and took part, with HMAS Supply in support and succeeded by HMNZS Canterbury, in a protest against French nuclear tests at Mururoa Atoll in 1973. She observed the 'Euterpe' test carried out on 28 July 1973,[3] part of the 1971-74 nuclear test series. The support of the RAN tanker was essential given the relatively short range of the Type 12 frigates [4] which was just sufficient to cross the Atlantic with a slow convoy, or operate for 36 hours at 25–30 knots (46–56 km/h; 29–35 mph) in all out anti-submarine operations [5] sprinting and searching. With the need to maintain a 50% fuel reserve at all times, due to need to allow for emergency requirements, weather and barnacle build up on hull, effective range of Otago without refueling is about 3,000 nautical miles (5,600 km; 3,500 mi).[6]

In 1960 the Royal Navy had seriously considered the Otago-class design as an alternative to the Rothesay Type 81 general purpose frigates for future development, with a design which would have carried one or two Wessex anti-submarine helicopters.[7] Proposals to fit a hangar and landing pad without the complete reconstruction, as had been done on the Royal Navy Rothesay class which had effectively required the ship to be split in half, were rejected by the Rear Admiral Chief of the Naval Staff on the grounds that 'nothing should be done that jeopardizes the RNZN case for a new combat ship.'[8] The Limbo mortars were finally removed after Exercise RIMPAC '77, after finally being fired on a recruitment cruise off Timaru in mid 1974.[9]

Otago continued as the third combat ship in the three frigate fleet designated by the 1978 Defence Review. In the second half of 1979 the ship had another extensive refit, with its Seacat missile system repaired after breakage, by using stored parts from HMNZS Taranaki's system. In early 1980 the ship deployed to Pearl Harbor and later the West Coast of the United States and Canada for extensive exercises with the United States Navy and Canadian Navy firing hundreds of rounds of 4.5-inch shells, under command of Cmdr Karl Moen, who described Otago as the 'one true fighting ship in the RNZN' with Ltd Cmdr Robert Martin as his second. Martin assumed command during a final six-month refit, leaving the ship on 7 April 1982. Even at the time of the Falklands War, the Captain of Otago and the Minister of Defence, Peter Thompson, declared the ship to still be fully combat capable.[10]

HMNZS Otago become the RNZN training ship in 1983, and paid off into inactive reserve in November 1983. The vessel was sold for scrap in 1987 and broken up at Auckland.


  1. ^ a b The Times (London), Friday, 12 December 1958, p.10
  2. ^ The Times (London), Thursday, 23 June 1960, p.7
  3. ^
  4. ^ D.Grant. The Mighty Totara. The life and times of Norman Kirk. Random House,(2014). Auckland, p.309 & NZ Herald 23 January 1973.
  5. ^ A.Preston. Warships of the World. Janes Publishing,(1980). London, p 152-3 & 164-5.
  6. ^ Interview Captain Ian Bradley (ret) 1983, who approved release, of fuel reserve req, and other info not included in defence articles in NBR and Timaru Herald in 1983.
  7. ^ R. Gardiner. All the Worlds Warships. Pt1. Western Powers. Conway Maritime Press,(1982).London, p164.
  8. ^ Interview Captain Ian Bradley, Auckland 1983
  9. ^ Participants in TBHS school visit to HMNZS Otago 1974 and Officers and Men of HMNZS Otago, 1974 and background interviews, with Capt Ian Bradley 82-84 for TH articles and NBR 83-7
  10. ^ NZPD Debates 1982.

Further reading[edit]

  • Wright, Gerry (2015). Operation Pilaster: The story of the voyages by the frigates HMNZ ships Otago and Canterbury, supported by the Australian naval tanker, HMAS Supply, to protest against the French atmospheric nuclear tests at Mururoa Atoll in 1973. Auckland: Gerry Wright. ISBN 9780473327712.

External links[edit]