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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 15. August 4, 1971

Submarine-Warfare and Anti-Submarine-Warfare Research

Submarine-Warfare and Anti-Submarine-Warfare Research

Apparently the only research carried out by the New Zealand Ministry of Defense itself is in the field of oceanography. This research is carried out by the Naval Research Laboratory based at Devonport An N.R.L release on its own activities reads as follows:-

"....Although many of the laboratory's activities are classified every effort is made to present as much as possible of the basic scientific data generated in the unclassified literature. In addition a close liaison is always maintained with other N.Z. research organisations involved in those aspects of marine research which concerns us (particularly the Oceanographic Institute and Geophysics Division of D.S.I.R.)

Most of the work the laboratory undertakes can be classed under the headings of 'Underwater acoustics' and 'Military oceanography'. Underwater acoustics include the development and design of new sonar systems and the study of those factors which reduce the effectiveness of existing ones.

Some of the N.R.L.'s activities are probably in violation of the Antarctic Treaty which amongst other things prohibits "any measures of a military nature". Oceanographic work carried out by N.R.L scientists in Antarctic water must surely be of a "military nature" or it would be left to the N.Z. Oceanographic Institute to carry out.

As noted in the above quotation Auckland University Physics Department does oceanographic work on behalf of the N.R.L. From 1968 onwards Auckland University teams have been studying the transmission of underwater sound in Antarctic water;, and recording sea noise, marine biological noises etc. beneath Antarctic sea ice. All this presumably is in contravention of the Antarctic Treaty.

It is interesting to speculate that the RNZN and Auckland University may be doing this Antarctic and other submarine warfare research at the request of the U S.N. The full extent of collaboration between the U S and N.Z. in these matters is not known. It has been claimed in Australia and denied in N.Z. that N.Z. is participating in the development of a new submarine detection system this development being code-named Project Nangana. This claim was first made by Christopher Forsyth:

"A $100.m [unclear: anti-sub] system called Project Nangana has been developed by Australian scientists.. Its installation around the Australian coast would change the R.A.N's primary role from antisubmarine to attach support for land based operations. The Federal government is to be asked to press ahead with Nangana this year. It is still in the research and development stage. H.Q. of the top-secret defence plan is at the Weapons Research Establishment, Salisbury, South Africa, which is a branch of the Department of Supply.

Brains and money from Australia, U.S., Britain and New Zealand combined to develop the product. It has involved government and private industry technologists in several fields, but most notably in micro electronics. The system is understood to be completely defensive, working in much the same way as a surface radar ... By giving advanced warning of underwater objects, such as submarines, Nangana will alert anti-submarines, ships and aircraft. The system is being guardedly talked about at the National Radio and Electronics Engineering Convention being held in Sydney under the auspices of the Institution of Radio and Electronic Engineering of Australia. . . . Industry reports said yesterday that once Nangana had been approved by the Federal Government they would gel between $35m and $60 over 5-6 years. Nangana is believed to have been tested by oceanographic ships from the R.A.N and the R.N.Z.N, R.N. ships have visited Australia specially for the task. It has been tested at great depths in the Tasman Sea."

The story was immediately taken up by New Zealand newspapers and comment was sought in Wellington. "Although official sources refuse comment on N.Z. participation in Australias Project Nangana it is understood that New Zealand scientists and Navy men have been working on the project for some time . . . Almost certainly there have been exchanges of information between Australia, N.Z. and Britain, and possibly the U.S. on this work .... Defence spokesman said in Wellington today that they could not comment on a project that had been mounted by the Australians. Asked in N.Z. taxpayers were entitled to know whether N.Z. Government funds were being used on the project they declined to comment."

A farther Australian report confirmed that Nangana did actually exist — "The Minister for Supply, Senator Henty yesterday confirmed that Australian scientists were working on the development of an improved submarine detection system. The project was on the early stages of research and technical evaluation." This report mentioned Royal Navy but not R.N.Z.N. participation.

Information released later by Australian defense officials revealed that Nangana was a system involving a network of unattended detection buoys which tape record data and relay it to shore stations, ships and aircraft. So far it has not yet been determined whether New Zealand has actually participated in Nangana. One U.S. submarine warfare project that New Zealand has participated in is Project Neptune, organised by the U.S. Naval Ordnance Laboratory in 1964. In this experiment a series of depth charges were dropped by ships and aircraft over wide ranges of ocean between Bermuda and Perth, Australia. Information collected by the project was intended to "help improve sonar and under-water communications systems by showing the Navy the best frequency and level of sound to us." The New Zealand N.R.L was invited to participate in this experiment and stationed the research vessel, Tui, off Milford Sound, from where detonations woe heard of bombs exploded as far away as 6,000 miles, near Capetown.

N.R.L responsibility for collecting data on behalf of the U.S.N. has probably increased greatly with the loan to N.Z. of the new research vessel, Tui, in July 1970. Part of the agreement for having the ship is that all information obtained by the R.N.Z.N. will be made available to the U.S.N. In April 1971 the Commander of U.S. antisubmarine warfare forces (Pacific) arrived in New Zealand to scrutinise the work of New Zealand's Orion antisubmarine aircraft and of the N.R.L.