Kiwi warship returns after testing $600m high-tech upgrades

One of New Zealand's warships is back in the country after testing a new multi-million dollar systems upgrade in Australia.

The HMNZS Te Mana frigate has spent over a month storm chasing in Australia, with flight trials for naval helicopters.

"I had to tell everyone before we deployed 'we're looking for rough weather so be prepared', but it went well," Commander Mike Peebles told 1News.

He said a new superstructure, installed as part of a major systems upgrade, has changed the airflow over the deck.

"We had to make sure we could still operate the helicopter and test its full limits."

The upgrade includes new self-defence missile technology, radars, and hull-mounted sonar. It was part of refits for both of the Defence Force's ANZAC class frigates, which cost $639 million.

"It was quite an intense upgrade," Peebles said.

The frigate and her 170-strong crew returned in July after spending three years in Canada for the refit, before leaving for training exercises with the Australian Defence Force.

Peebles said the ship, which was built in the 1990s, needed to be modernised to bring it into line with frigates of allied navies.

Te Mana was commissioned into the Royal New Zealand Navy in 1999 and was sent to the Solomon Islands in 2000 to evacuate Kiwis from conflict.

"It is a warship, it's designed to go into harm's way, but we can do all these other things, search and research, help out in White Island, helping out around the New Zealand coast for customs and fisheries," Peebles said.

The new upgrade is expected to see Te Mana through to the end of its service life in the mid-2030s.