HMNZS Waikato (F55)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
HMNZS Waikato at speed
Career (New Zealand)
Name: HMNZS Waikato (F55)
Namesake: Waikato province of New Zealand
Operator: Royal New Zealand Navy
Builder: Harland and Wolff
Laid down: January 1964
Launched: 18 February 1965
Commissioned: September 1966
Decommissioned: 1998
Refit: Major modernisation refit 1986–88
Homeport: Tauranga, New Zealand, but based out of Devonport Naval Base, Auckland
Nickname: The mighty Y
Honours and
Armilla Patrol 1982, Bougainville 1990
Fate: Sunk on 18 December 2000 as an artificial reef
General characteristics
Class and type: Leander class frigate
Displacement: 2,450 tons standard
3,200 tons full load
Length: 372 ft (113 m)
Beam: 41 ft (12 m)
Draught: 19 ft (6 m)
Propulsion: 2 × Babcock and Wilcox boilers delivering steam to
2 × English Electric geared steam turbines, 30,000 shp to 2 shafts
Speed: 27 knots (50 km/h)
Range: 4,600 nautical miles (8,520 km) at 15 knots (28 km/h)
Complement: 18 officers, 248 sailors
Sensors and
processing systems:
Type 965 air search radar. 993 main search radar. 1006 Navigational Radar
Armament: 2 × 4.5 in (114 mm) guns in twin Mk6 mounting
1 × quadruple Sea Cat SAM launcher
2 ×
Mark 32 torpedo tubes for Mark 46 torpedoes
4 × M2 Browning machine guns.
Aircraft carried: Originally a Wasp helicopter, later a Kaman SH-2G

HMNZS Waikato (F55) was a Leander Batch 2TA frigate of the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN). She was one of two Leanders built for the RNZN, the other being the Batch 3 HMNZS Canterbury. These two New Zealand ships relieved British ships of the Armilla patrol during the Falklands conflict, freeing British ships for deployment.

Construction and design[edit]

Waikato was ordered in 1963 for the RNZN after a delay of more than six years after the order for the Type 12 frigates Otago and Taranaki, which had proved successful in New Zealand service. There was a pressing need to replace the ageing cruiser Royalist and the RNZN's last two operational Loch-class frigates, which carried outdated sonars and anti-submarine weapons and were slow. The Navy board view was that a minimum of six frigates were required[1] for protection of trade including strategic oil shipments to New Zealand, and the improved anti submarine Type 12 was considered 'eminently suited' for New Zealand conditions.[2] Additionally, Cold War tensions were high in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis with escalating trouble in South East Asia over Vietnam and Indonesia's inflitration into Malaysia and Borneo, led the government to order a third Type 12.[citation needed] The actual suitability of the Leander for New Zealand was questioned by many Royal Naval officers,[3] who regarded the Leander as a short ranged North Atlantic anti submarine hunter, designed to operate as part of the radar, air direction, anti submarine screen of the British aircraft carrier groups being phased out between 1967–71. Nevertheless, the Type 12 rode very well in a seaway,had excellent communications, a much better arranged operations room than the Rothesays, good margin for modernisation, and good workshops and carried 60 days worth of supplies, other than weapons and fuel.

Laid down in January 1964, Waikato was constructed by Harland and Wolff and was delivered in 1966, commissioning into the RNZN in September that year. Displacing 2,450 tons standard and 3,200 tons at full load, Waikato was 372 ft (113 m) long, had a beam of 41 ft (12 m) and a draught of 19 ft (6 m). She was fitted with two Babcock and Wilcox boilers which delivered steam to two English Electric geared steam turbines, producing 30,000 shp to two shafts, which gave Waikato a top speed of 30 knots. Her range was 4,600 nautical miles (8,520 km) at 15 knots (28 km/h), and she had a crew of 18 officers and 248 sailors.[citation needed]

In terms of armament, Waikato was a fully armed Batch 2 Leander. With Mk 6 Twin 4.5 inch guns, a Seacat GWS22 point defence missile, Limbo a/s mortar and Wasp helicopter. She was identical to the Royal Navy Leanders of her group, with 965M LRAW and 177 hull and 199 Variable depth sonars, while her half sister, HMS Canterbury was a larger improved Leander, completed in 1971, with a more automated and remote controllable steam plant, a frigate potentially capable of updating with long range bow sonars and Seawolf missiles. The HMS Canterbury a similar sensor and weapons to the Waikato, because New Zealand could not afford the better screen displays and faster processing systems fitted to 1971/2 RN Leanders, and because cost margins of the last group of the Leanders were tight, it did not receive the more modern sonar and ECM/ESM of the last two RN Leanders. The Leanders were very expensive for New Zealand and the cost per ton, is just as high as their USN DE52 Knox class, which were poor seaboats. Some Royal Navy Leanders eventually carried bow sonars in the 1980s with the range of power of the DE52, and all recently refitted clean bottom Leanders and Rothesays were silenced more effectively than early 1980s Type 22 frigates,[4]/

Operational history[edit]

For the first nine years of its RNZN service the Waikato operated around New Zealand and with the ANZUK naval squadron based at Singapore, which continued in reduced form in 1971–75 with the Royal Navy sending 5 or 6 frigates and destroyers. From 1975 Royal Navy task forces continued to visit New Zealand and Australia for exercises until 1983, when the Falklands commitment and the aftermath effectively ended the Royal Navy's central involvement with the RAN and RNZN.[5] The Naval Board described the late 1970s Five Power Treaty as in a 'sense transitional'.[6]

In 1975–77, Waikato was given an extensive mid-life refit, and essentially modified to the specifications of HMNZS Canterbury with the mortar and VDS wells suppressed and replaced by an enlarged helicopter landing pad, intended for Lynx helicopters that were never ordered and a closed circuit TV system to monitor helicopter operations from the flightdeck. Surface and Navigation radar was also updated to current RN standards a rather inexpensive alteration. At the time the RN had already rebuilt its early Leanders at great expense with Ikara missiles and computer action automation of weapon systems and the second batch Leanders of the same type as Waikato were to have their gun turret replaced with Exocet missiles, receiving additional Seacat launchers and improved C3. The cost of the later Ikara RN modernisations and the modernisation the Batch 2 RN Leanders often exceeded that of new built Type 21 frigates.[7] The cost of modernisation of the Leanders depended on the hull age, and a nine-year old Leander like Waikato could almost certainly have been rebuilt, with automated 76mm, CIWS in the mid 1970's, in the pattern of the Dutch Leander modernization [8] at an affordable cost compared with the very costly modernization of the a 12-year-old frigate like HMS Dido or HMNZS Wellington.

After re-entering service under the command of Captain Ian Bradley, Waikato was involved in the rescue of a seriously injured fishermen from the Soviet trawler Ardatov during which a Wasp, flown by Lieutenant Joe Tunicliffe, was launched in rough sea conditions to pick up the man from a trawler. Later, in January 1978, the while escorting the USN Thresher-class SSN Pintado into Auckland harbour, Waikato faced an armada of anti nuclear protest yachts, which attempted to block the passage of the possibly nuclear armed and certainly nuclear powered USN attack sub. The Waikato ran into the harbour fast ahead of the Pintado, with the Waikato‍ '​s Wasp helicopter and another RNZN Wasp in company, deployed over the protest yachts to create downdraft which destabilised the protest yachts, and tipped several over in a controversial move which secured the rapid passage of the Pintado to its berth. No one was hurt. While appreciated by the US Navy and crew of the USN hunter killer, the move was regarded as aggressive by NZ politicians and was condemned by the protestors. The approach was never adopted again. The Waikato escorting the SSN USS Haddo into Auckland harbour with less drama the following February 1979. Waikato deployed to Pearl Harbour for work up with USN fleet units and performed well in RIMPAC and exercises with the US and Canadian fleet.[9]

During and after the Falklands conflict in 1982-3, Waikato deployed to the Armilla patrol to help free up British ships for deployment.[10] The Waikato alternated with HMNZS Canterbury (F421) on these duties, the frigates visiting Colombo, Karachi, Mauritius, Zanzibar, Port Sudan, Muscat and Diego Garcia [11] on what was officially known as the Indian Ocean Patrol.[12]

During July and August 1990, Waikato was involved in Operation BIGTALK, an intervention that was a direct result of the ongoing civil conflict in and around Bougainville. The New Zealand Government was tasked with deploying its naval resources to negotiate a peace accord between the two warring factions, the resulting document is now known as the Endeavour accord. The ships deployed to this incident were HMNZS Waikato (Leander class gun frigate), HMNZS Wellington (Leander class gun frigate) and HMNZS Endeavour (logistic support and refueling vessel). Although the naval forces were not engaged during the operation, due to the intense fighting and civil unrest there was serious potential for insurgent attacks on New Zealand naval forces. Citations were issued to the crews to acknowledge their contribution, 24 years after this operation ex-service personnel are still petitioning their government for medallic recognition. Waikato was a well loved ship and crew members have fond memories of her, Waikato has a well used Facebook page for ex crew members to use.[citation needed]


HMNZS Waikato was decommissioned from the Royal New Zealand Navy in 1998 and bought from the Government for $1. She was stripped in the Northland port of Opua and sunk off the coast of Tutukaka on 18 December 2000 as an artificial reef. In 2002, the sunken Waikato's bow was separated from the rest of the ship in heavy weather.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ NZ Naval Board Report 1963
  2. ^ NZ Naval Board Reports 1962 & 1963
  3. ^ Captain John Moore. Jane's Naval Review 1982-3. Janes. London (1982) and (ed)Jane's Fighting Ship 1983-84. Jane's, London(1983)
  4. ^ During the Falklands war, ARA San Luis a 209 sub, could hear the Type 22 frigates, not the steam beat of its hunter partner, HMS Yarmouth
  5. ^ J F Schink & C.Cameron. Learning from Experience. Lessons from Australia's Collins Subs. Rand Corporation.(2011) St Monica. USA.
  6. ^ NZ Navy Report to Defence Council 1979
  7. ^ Refer to Janes FS 1981-2 for cf refit costs.
  8. ^ R. Gardiner. Conways All the Worlds Fighting Ships 1947-1982. pt 1 Western Powers. Conway Maritime Press. London(1983) ,p 84 ,
  9. ^ NZ Naval Report to Defence Council 1979 and I. Bradley, Don't Rock the Boat (2004)
  10. ^ NZ Naval Report to the Defence Council 1983
  11. ^ NZ Naval Report to the Defence Council 1983
  12. ^ NZ Naval Report to Defence Council 1983

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°39′10″S 174°32′40″E / 35.6528°S 174.5445°E / -35.6528; 174.5445