The Navy’s largest ship is heading for a major US-led RIMPAC military exercise and will spend months overseas

The navy’s newest ship, the tanker Aotearoa, will join the major US-led military exercise RIMPAC, which runs from late June.

The Defense Forces announced on Tuesday that aircrews from Aotearoa and the Navy, Air Force and Army were traveling to Hawaii and Southern California to participate in Exercise Rim of Pacific (RIMPAC), alongside militaries from 26 other nations.

“This will be a true test of combat capabilities and thrilling for all involved,” Maritime Component Commander Commodore Garin Golding said in a statement.

Joining HMNZS Aotearoa at RIMPAC would be navy dive and hydrography teams who will train in mine countermeasures, an army team who will train in live fire, and personnel from all branches military will contribute to air and combat operations.

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The Defense Force did not say how many employees would participate in the exercise.

An Official Information Act request, made public by peace campaigner Valerie Morse, showed that more than 60 personnel manning HMNZS Aotearoa, there were 34 naval officers, nine soldiers from the army and 35 others of full force present.

The New Zealand staff would lead a carrier battle group in the exercise, the Defense Force said, for the first time since it began participating in the exercise in 2012.

The US Navy said that in total the exercise will include 38 ships, four submarines, nine armies, more than 170 aircraft and some 25,000 troops. It would run from June 29 to August 4.

Aotearoa will remain in the Asia-Pacific region for nearly six months for various unspecified engagements.

He would attend a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force fleet review in November and be back in New Zealand for Christmas.

The Navy's newest and largest ship, HMNZS Aotearoa, is heading to Hawaii for a major US exercise.

SIMON O’CONNOR / Stuff

The Navy’s newest and largest ship, HMNZS Aotearoa, is heading to Hawaii for a major US exercise.

A group of activists have called on the government to withdraw the Defense Forces from RIMPAC, criticizing the exercise as jeopardizing peace.

Marco de Jong, a member of the Cancel RIMPAC coalition, said New Zealand should “maintain a principled distance” from the exercise and participate in alternative security arrangements for the region, such as the Islands Forum of the Pacific.

“New Zealand derives its international reputation from its place and influence in the Pacific. Playing American lapdog is tantamount to an overbearing apologist and jeopardizes New Zealand interests.

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