New Zealand


Te Ope Katua O Aotearoa

Byline: Geoff Slocombe / New Zealand

Like its Australian counterparts, the NZDF has been sustaining a much higher operational tempo than has been the long-term norm. From the chill of Antarctica to the steamy heat of the Tropics, and from South Korea to South Sudan, the NZDF is working hard for New Zealand and its interests.

With nearly 9,000 regulars and just over 2,000 reserves, there is a lot of operational experience being gained. At any one time approximately 10% of uniformed personnel are overseas on 16 operations in 12 countries including Afghanistan, East Timor, the Solomon Islands, and UN missions around globe; providing humanitarian aid and support for South Pacific countries; or participating in exercises like RIMPAC 2012 with the armed forces of 22 other countries.

A further 10% are training for deployment soon; 10% are just back from deployments; another 10% in NZ are directly involved with supporting the overseas deployments; while 17% are committed to territorial security tasks and working with other government agencies like Fisheries, Customs, Police, Maritime and Conservation within NZ’s EEZ, the fifth largest in the world.

All of this is occurring in an environment of financial stringency and a Government-mandated requirement for the NZDF to make savings to help fund its future capabilities.

Looking to the future in the NZDF Statement of Intent 2012-13 submitted to Parliament, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, Chief of the NZDF, wrote “We need to deliver capabilities and services that are relevant, combat orientated, and valued by the New Zealand Government and New Zealanders.”

In relation to NZ’s strategic situation he predicted “We are likely to see growing strain on the resilience of Pacific Island states, and increased pressure on our ocean resources. We will need to have awareness of what is happening in the Pacific and be able to respond appropriately, and with little warning. We will need to respond effectively alone, or in partnership with Australia or with other coalition forces in an environment where the United States will remain the pre-eminent power.”

When recording his strategy for the next few years, Lt Gen Jones noted that “We will need to develop new military capabilities to meet future security challenges. We may not receive additional crown funding for the next 10 years, and we need to fund current and future military capability from within our current budget. The added challenge is that we may be called on to provide more support to protect New Zealand’s economic and territorial interests. Given these challenges, we need to change – we cannot succeed using the same thinking and ways of working.”

Despite having a strategy for the future, the NZDF has a pressing problem which must be dealt with before the situation becomes worse.

The twin magnets of higher family take-home income and hoped for better lifestyle in Australia are attracting a current average of one thousand New Zealanders a week to cross the Tasman to live. Highly trained and skilled NZDF personnel are not immune.

Mining companies have been recruiting in New Zealand, even near the Devonport Naval Base. The Air Force, Army, and Navy are believed to have lost around a thousand people in the past year, and a reportedly high proportion have gone into mining. The RNZN has been hit particularly hard, and is experiencing a double digit percentage separation rate, allegedly because sailors’ experience with operating heavy machinery makes them attractive to the mining industry.

An added advantage for an Australian move is lateral transfer to the ADF which offers help with relocation expenses and fast-tracking of Australian citizenship after three months of service.

Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral Tony Parr, declared New Zealanders will notice little difference as the Navy re-organises how it delivers its patrol commitments during a period when it is focused on regenerating personnel numbers after a period of higher than usual attrition.

“The changes Navy have made to the Fleet Activity Plan will allow our personnel to benefit from some respite – to conduct personal and professional development; to allow people to be at home with family longer; and for people to clear accumulated leave. This is an active approach to addressing issues our people have said are important” said the Admiral.

The NZDF is making greater efforts to offer more ‘family friendly’ policies and postings to its personnel, including less frequent household relocations and more consideration of the education and employment requirements of other household members. Recruitment publicity gives much more emphasis on the personal skills and travel experiences to be gained, lifelong friendships formed, and the numerous other benefits of military service.


A clear set of principal tasks was enunciated in the 2010 Defence White Paper and employed in subsequent planning for a 25 year horizon. These have been confirmed by Government for the period 2012-15, in the order below.

Top priority is naturally to defend New Zealand’s sovereignty. Next is to discharge obligations as an ally of Australia; then to contribute to and, where necessary, lead peace and security operations in the South Pacific.

New Zealand expects to make a credible contribution in support of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region; to protect its wider interests by contributing to international peace and security; and support the international rule of law.

The NZDF is to contribute to all-of-government efforts at home and abroad in resource protection, disaster relief, and humanitarian assistance; to participate in all-of-government efforts to monitor the international strategic environment; and to be prepared to respond to sudden shifts and other disjunctions in the strategic direction.


During the years 2012-15, the NZDF (‘Three Services, One Force’) will implement the CDF’s strategy to join the operational and support elements of the three services into an integrated and coherent JATF by 2015. In the CDF’s words “It signals a shift in the way we operate and think – from an approach where we generally operated apart and sometimes came together – to one where we will operate together and sometimes work apart. The JATF requires us to deploy, operate, and sustain combat forces away from New Zealand. It positions the NZDF as an expeditionary force.”

The intention is have the JATF capable of deploying a Combined Arms Task Group (CATG) and sustaining operations around NZ or in the South Pacific for up to two rotations. It will be able to work independently or as part of a larger coalition effort. The individual components will be separately deployable.

To reach the target in this four year period, the NZDF Statement of Intent declares it will continue to deliver its current level of capability; implement a Total Defence Workforce; redirect savings to priority areas; improve intelligence, surveillance and response (ISR) capability; integrate land, maritime and air capabilities for joint military operations; implement enduring organisational change; and introduce new capabilities.

The ANZAC initiative of having a Rapid Response Force (RRF) for contingencies in the South West Pacific is supported by two NZDF officers being placed in the ADF Deployable Joint Force HQ in Brisbane. One will be located in Planning and the other in Logistics.

The Defence Command and Control System currently under acquisition will deliver upgraded situational awareness to selected service headquarters, platforms and bases. It will also deliver the infrastructure, hardware and software necessary to implement the Joint Command and Control System across the NZDF.


Work has begun on changes to Navy capability. The amphibious support ship HMNZS CANTERBURY is entering a six month period of remediation for problems with landing craft, radars, medical facilities and the impact of adverse sea conditions. Platform system upgrades are in progress for the two ANZAC frigates, with the expensive Frigate Systems Upgrades being planned now for completion by 2017. The two offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) are proving their worth with regular patrols around NZ, to the Southern Ocean, and into the Tropics. The four inshore patrol vessels (IPVs) have performed well but are impacted by personnel leaving the Navy. Planned availability for patrol is being maintained, but at least one IPV will be on reduced availability for the rest of the year. A Littoral Warfare Support vessel is planned to be in service by 2017-18 replacing both the hydrographic survey ship just decommissioned, and the diving support ship.

During extended periods at sea, ANZAC frigates maintain fuel levels by refuelling every four or five days on average from auxiliary oiler replenishment (AOR) vessels. If this capability is not present, then maritime combat force projection is restricted to operations within reasonable transit times to a port having suitable docking and refuelling facilities.

Currently the RAN and RNZN have three AOR ships. HMAS SUCCESS, commissioned 1986 and double hulled last year in Singapore, is expected to be in service until around 2020. SEA 1654 Phase 3 is the project for her replacement, with first pass approval planned for 2012-2014. HMAS SIRIUS, a converted civilian double hulled tanker MV DELOS, which was introduced into service in 2006, will also be replaced by SEA 1654. HMNZS ENDEAVOUR, commissioned in 1988, was converted to operate as a ‘double sided’ tanker in 2008. It will no longer meet international maritime tanker compliance regulations from April 2013, so from then on until replaced it will operate at reduced cargo capacity. The NZ Ministry of Defence issued a Request for Information (RFI) early in 2011 for ENDEAVOUR’s replacement. The new ship should be in service in approximately five years time.

With both Australia and New Zealand planning to replace three supply ships in less than ten years, is there scope for another ANZAC ship project?

Any supply ship design considered for the RAN and RNZN fleets would be characterised by efficiency in the AOR role with supplemental sealift/amphibious capability and organic helicopter support.

The five current SH-2G (NZ) maritime combat helicopters will prove insufficient for the rest of this decade and beyond – see “Australian Super Seasprites to fly again?” APDR June 2012. Ongoing discussions are being held with Kaman concerning the NZDF acquiring eleven SH-2G (I) near new helicopters, plus complete spares and a full motion simulator.


Chief of Army Major General Tim Keating recently provided a stirring editorial for NZ’s monthly Army News magazine, available on-line, in which he wrote that “Army must develop a greater joint approach as one of the ways we will change how we operate in the future to remain a relevant and high performing Army”.

In his view “This is an imperative for us. We must draw on the common capabilities that are held in the three services which will enable us to sustain our operations for much longer, without undue stress being placed on the more deployable elements. It also means we must become expert at operating out of, or from, RNZN ships and RNZAF aircraft. This means we must take every opportunity in our training to build this expertise with the other services.”

In addition he believes in the need “ . . . . . to develop an Army that has keener battlefield senses and a greater ability to interpret and act decisively on that information. While there are certainly areas where big armies and their equally ‘big’ approaches are necessary, there is a place on the battlefield for nations who possess small, smart and tough armies. In many cases, these are the force elements that deliver an effect well beyond their actual size, if they are organised to deliver the ‘blow’ where it is best placed”.

Maj Gen Keating wrote “We already demonstrate an agility and responsiveness that holds us in high regard with our friends, allies and partners. It is often the smaller, leaner, more responsive team member that is relied upon to make those critical plays that win the game. This is a unique, yet powerful, position – and one I am keen to focus on as the Army moves forward.”

He nominated as focus areas “In the upcoming years we will have a significant investment in Command and Control Systems as well as Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets. What we must ensure is that this investment enables us to deliver our battlefield effects with more precision. Examples in more common terms are a small force cannot afford to conduct blind patrolling programmes; patrols must be directed by sound intelligence. Similarly a small force cannot afford to strike on a broad front; rather it should strike with precision where the greatest effect can be achieved.”

Highlighting results from this precision approach to current operations he noted “This equally applies to the delivery of effects such as Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR). We have seen highly successful examples of this approach with our recent operations in the twenty rotations of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Bamyan and our SAS operations also in Afghanistan.”

The Chief of Army concluded his editorial with “In essence we are building towards a force that will use its small size to its advantage. This requires us to be tougher, smarter and focused on operational deployability as part of a joint force. With this focus in mind, we cannot help but succeed.”



After a difficult eleven years for the RNZAF, following disbandment of the A4 Skyhawk Air Combat Force and associated jet training aircraft in 2001, the Air Force is re-equipped with very effective new or upgraded aircraft and training aids. Each of the operational squadrons has received, or will shortly receive, vital new capability.

New NH-90 TTH helicopter deliveries are almost complete, five new A109Es are also on the flight line at Ohakea Air Base, with both types undergoing operational test and evaluation prior to replacing venerable Iroquois and Sioux aircraft, which have given four decades of outstanding service, now coming to an end.

By December 2013 the C-130H Life Extension Program (LEP) fleet of Hercules transports should all be back on line. The P-3K2 Orions similarly should have completed their extensive cockpit and systems upgrades to enable them to continue in service until at least 2025 or longer. The existing leased analogue cockpit King Air B200s are being replaced by newer leased B 200s fitted with the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 “glass cockpit” for twin engine training and light transport duties. An advanced pilot training system acquisition is due to be finalised soon. Whenuapai and Ohakea air bases have had infrastructure upgrades.

Recently Group Captain Andy Woods, Assistant Chief of Air Force (Strategy Management) commented in NZ’s monthly Air Force News magazine, available on-line, on how the RNZAF will fit in with the CDF’s strategy for the NZDF to 2035, entitled Future 35.

In his view “Future 35 has a number of key themes, the first of which is to be more “joined up” as a Defence Force, and the Joint Amphibious Task Force (JATF) is a tangible example of that. For our Air Force, it’s a concept we’re very familiar with, and well prepared for. The foremost example is No.6 Squadron – an Air Force Squadron, commanded by a naval officer (who in many instances was trained on an Air Force Wings course), staffed by Air Force maintenance personnel, who routinely go to sea in RNZN ships and become part of a ship’s company, delivering an air asset that is a critical part of our maritime projection and combat capability. I’m sure the members of No. 6 Sqn will have a good understanding of what CDF means when he talks about the single Services being “joined up”.

“Equally, the raison d’etre of our transport and helicopter forces is to support the other two Services to create a joined up effect. Whether it be B757s taking soldiers to Afghanistan, C-130s taking supplies into Dili, or – as in the recent Exercise ALAM HALFA – Iroquois dropping assault teams onto a compound, Air Force’s delivery of air power is strongly focussed on supporting NZDF as ‘one force’.”


The 2010 Defence White Paper committed to a further review in 2015. This work will start in earnest during 2014 with a consideration of policy objectives and the desired NZDF capabilities. Major items which will get preliminary studies include “big ticket” replacements during the 2020s of the C-130H Hercules, P-3K2 Orion and ANZAC frigates.

In the meantime a Strategic Bearer Network Project will allow the NZDF to meet its growing need for access to satellite bandwidth over the next 20 years. The Wideband Global Satellite (WGS) programme is a network of nine military satellites built by Boeing and operated by the US Department of Defence. New Zealand has joined Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands in a joint agreement for access to the network in return for partially funding the ninth satellite.

The January 2012 signing by Defence Ministers, from both sides of the Tasman, of a new Australia-New Zealand Defence Relationship Framework, builds on the ANZAC tradition and the longstanding comprehensive defence relationship between Australia and New Zealand.

In addition the Ministers signed a new Memorandum of Arrangement on cooperation in the fields of defence research and development. This will advance the relationship between Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Organisation and New Zealand’s Defence Technology Agency.

NZ and the US have come closer together with formal declarations on mutual planning, support, exercises and deployments. In July 2012 the Washington Declaration was signed at the Pentagon between Dr John Coleman, NZ Minister of Defence, and Leon Panetta, US Secretary of Defense.

Specifically, the Washington Declaration enhances cooperation in key areas that NZ and the US have been working on closely together over the past two years, namely maritime security, including counter-proliferation, counter-terrorism, and anti-piracy. It also sets out cooperation for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the region, and promotes peace-keeping and peace-support initiatives.


If objective setting, strategising, planning and pursuing cost-effectiveness won prizes for a defence force, the NZDF would be on the medal winner’s dais.

From a small economic base, relative to Australia and the bigger Asia Pacific powers, New Zealand cannot afford to spread its resources too thinly. Australia is its key ally and defence planning takes place against a background of close consultation between the two independent sovereign nations. Although their foreign policies do not always align, this does not get in the way of close personal and professional relationships between the NZDF and ADF.

Morale, personnel retention/motivation and money are the three biggest current challenges. How to meet these? Will the solution be helped by the new Human Resources Information System currently under acquisition?

Morale is based on the justness of the cause, with the worth of an individual’s contribution and likely career progress being fully recognised and rewarded. The NZDF is making a conscious effort to be more oriented towards the individual, within the constraints of a disciplined service. The current savings program is seriously hurting morale and will continue to do so until its tangible benefits can be demonstrated.

Personnel retention and motivation is a more demanding task, since not only the service person but also their partners, family and friends have to be considered. Morale building programs help, but after the minimum signed-up time more consideration could be given to time-off and re-entry schemes to give people the opportunity to look at the greener pastures and decide if it is for them. It seems to work for leading Kiwi sports people spending a season or two overseas! Differential pay schemes and re-enlistment bonuses help with career positions where shortages are felt most keenly by the NZDF, but this can also work against the egalitarian Kiwi spirit.

Money for defence will always be a problem in New Zealand’s social welfare society. Any proposed defence expenditure is always critiqued in the media against the social measures which could be funded with the same money – health, education, welfare, law enforcement, etc. With three year terms between elections, politicians have little encouragement to take the long-term view of defence rather than populist social spending which wins them votes. The general public do not appreciate how long it takes to get new weapons, systems, and personnel becoming skilled in their use, to an operational level of capability (OLOC), and therefore are only reluctantly persuaded on major defence expenditures.

The NZDF has a deservedly good reputation with NZ’s general population. It has the plans, structure, personnel and projects to retain that goodwill.











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