The New Zealand Army (NZ Army) has begun testing its new Zodiac MilPro FC530 inflatable military boats, the service announced.
The new FC530 craft replaced FC470 Zodiacs which were 15–20 years old and the old NZ Army Kevlar Assault boats which were withdrawn from service in 2018. The FC530 craft are larger, can carry more load, and have newer and more capable multi-fuel engines which allow for broader mission profiles than the old craft (these run on petrol, kerosene/ aviation fuel, or in extreme situations, even diesel).
The boats have been purchased to allow the Royal New Zealand Engineers (RNZE) to conduct Platoon and Company Lift Operations to support mobility of supported units, and amphibious insertion of force elements from Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) ships such as the OPV or HMNZS Canterbury. They can also perform RNZE reconnaissance missions or carry humanitarian assistance or disaster relief stores transfer from ship to shore, or shore to shore for isolated locations.
The RNZN has also bought the same boats under the project giving RNZN and NZ Army interoperable fleets. The RNZN use these craft for diving operations, hydrography survey, and as ships’ tenders for the frigates or OPV due to their ability to be packed up and stowed easily.
The biggest difference between the old boats and the new craft is capacity. The old FC470 Zodiacs could only carry six people (including crew) or around 800kg of stores. The new craft can carry up to 12 personnel or 1,500kg of equipment. Additionally the safety equipment, navigation equipment and personnel protective equipment procured by the project has led to major safety and capability upgrades. These have included adding as standard equipment to each boat; crew immersion suits, crew impact helmets, marine GPS and with maritime chart capability, emergency beacons, maritime radios, immersion proof boat bags and stowage equipment.