The ‘Know Your Region’ series is designed to support unit and individual professional military education on the Indo-Pacific region.

Military Capability

New Zealand has a small but capable military with around 6,500 Army, 3,000 Navy, and 3,000 Air Force full time and reserve personnel – plus an additional 3,000 defence civilians. 


The NZ Army is based around a brigade construct, with a enabling formation-level Training and Doctrine organisation. It includes infantry, cavalry, field artillery, combat engineer, signals and logistics units and operates a number of light skin and lightly armoured vehicles, towed 105mm howitzers, and wheeled Rapidly Emplaced Bridging Systems (REBS) transported on a MAN support vehicle flat rack. The NZ Army employs the Bushmaster vehicle and the New Zealand Light Armoured Vehicle (NZLAV). The Army’s Medium to Heavy Operational Vehicles consist of the MAN HX60 (6 tonne), HX 58 (9 tonne) and HX77 15 tonne variants. The NZ Army also includes the NZ Special Operations Component Command, consisting of the 1st NZ Special Air Service Regiment.


New Zealand’s Navy is known as the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) and has a surface fleet that consists of two Anzac-class Frigates, two Offshore Patrol Vessels, one protector-fleet amphibious and military sealift vessel, one specialist dive and hydrographic vessel, and two lake-class inshore patrol vessels. The fleet is supported by one polar-class sustainment vessel. The NZDF also has a number of small surface craft including littoral manoeuvre craft, rigid hulled inflatable boats, and workboats. 

Air Force

New Zealand’s Air Force (Royal New Zealand Air Force or RNZAF) operates fixed and rotary wing aircraft. Its rotary wing complement includes five Augusta Westland A109 Light Utility Helicopters, eight NH90 medium utility helicopters, and eight SH-2G(I) Seasprite maritime helicopters. Its fixed wing fleet comprises of four King Air KA350 commuter aircraft, five Lockheed C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft, two Boeing 757-2K2 aircraft used in passenger and freight configuration, and four Boeing P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft. Eleven T-6C Texan II aircraft are used as training aircraft. New Zealand’s Boeing 757 aircraft have recently come under criticism due to their age and high maintenance burden. This was after the Prime Minister flew to China with both aircraft as there were concerns that one may break down during the trip.


In 2023, the New Zealand Government announced an increase to the Defence budget for 2023/2024 with pay increases, procurement of new equipment, intelligence, and regional security comprising the main increases in spending. Navy and Air Force received modest increases in their budgets while the Army received the same funding as the year prior. There is a push from senior military commentators to increase the Defence budget due to security concerns within the region. 

For further information on the New Zealand Defence force, see the resources below:


  1. NZDF – New Zealand Defence Force
  2. New Zealand Army – New Zealand Defence Force (
  3. Military vehicles – New Zealand Defence Force (
  4. New Zealand unveils defense budget, with Army in the lead (
  5. The 'number 8 wire' days for NZ's defence force are over – new priorities will demand bigger budgets (
  6. New Zealand defence minister says military needs more resources amid growing challenges | Reuters
  7. 2023 New Zealand Military Strength (


  1. NZ Defence Force - YouTube

Military Co-Operation with Australia

New Zealand and Australia share a long and close-knit military history. Australians fighting alongside New Zealanders goes as far back as Australians enlisting to fight in the New Zealand land wars between 1845 and 1864. Combined Australian and New Zealand forces operated together in both world wars, Vietnam, and many deployments after. Military cooperation between the two countries is vital, and perhaps one of the closest between any two nations due to the bonds formed throughout World War One and the Gallipoli campaign in particular. The close relationship between New Zealand and Australia is most clearly reflected in the creation of the well-known term 'Anzac', originally standing for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, the organisation formed by Australian and New Zealand forces in WW1, and again in WW2.

ANZUS Treaty

In 1952, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States signed the ANZUS Treaty. This treaty bound the three countries to provide a unified response against any aggressor in the South Pacific. The Treaty has only ever been invoked once by the Prime Minister of Australia John Howard in 2001 in response to the terror attacks against the United States. This led to Australia’s involvement in the War on Terror. In the early 1980s, the United States absolved itself of any obligation to New Zealand after New Zealand became a nuclear-free country, effectively banning nuclear US warships from docking in its ports. Although the sentiment of the original ANZUS Treaty remains to this day, and the alliance has not been fully revoked, the agreement between the nations no longer exists in practice. Although the precise answer as to whether or not the ANZUS Treaty is still in force is complex and nuanced. For many, AUKUS appears to be the next evolution of ANZUS.

AUKUS Treaty

The trilateral AUKUS security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States has recently been offered to New Zealand to join as a partner. New Zealand has previously been critically opposed to nuclear weapons and nuclear propulsion for submarines and other war ships. Nuclear powered submarines are a large component of the AUKUS partnership. New Zealand has indicated that it may be interested in the non-nuclear components of the AUKUS partnership, such as Pillar II which centres on the shared development of emerging technologies. 

Plan Anzac

In 2023 the New Zealand and Australian Chiefs of Army signed Plan Anzac, a Bilateral Service Cooperation Plan between the two Armies. The Plan provides a framework to more easily cooperate in training and readiness, integrate capabilities and conduct strategic engagement. It serves to generate greater interoperability to be used on future operational deployments together.

For further information on the New Zealand military co-operation with Australia, see the resources below:


  1. AUKUS Factsheet
  2. AUKUS + NZ = win-win | Lowy Institute
  3. New Zealand and Australian Army Chiefs sign Plan ANZAC - New Zealand Defence Force (
  4. Australia, New Zealand sign army cooperation deal | RNZ News
  5. ANZUS treaty comes into force | NZHistory, New Zealand history online
  6. Australian defence minister visits New Zealand to strengthen anti-China alliance - World Socialist Web Site (
  7. Australia eases citizenship requirements for New Zealanders as countries strengthen military ties - World Socialist Web Site (

Cove Gallipoli Campaign Articles:

  1. Path to the Gallipoli Campaign | The Cove (
  2. Lone Pine – 105th Anniversary Special | The Cove (

Cove Articles:

  1. Kiwi PME: The New Zealand's Land Warfare Symposium | The Cove (

Military Co-Operation in the Pacific

New Zealand is a key regional power in the South Pacific. This, coupled with its heritage with many Pacific Island nations means that its influence in the region is significant. New Zealand is currently seeking to increase its presence in the region and become the region’s partner of choice. In 2023, New Zealand officials conducted a tour of Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Tonga. The Royal New Zealand Navy has partnered with Samoa conducting a Maritime Patrol Operation in Samoa’s Exclusive Economic Zone at the request of the Samoan Government. New Zealand has a Status of Forces Agreement with France which governs New Caledonia and there are Visiting Force Agreements with Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, and Timor-Leste. New Zealand is fast establishing itself as its self-aspirational partner of choice.

For further information on the New Zealand military co-operation in the Pacific, see the resources below:


  1. How New Zealand is trying to expand military relations with its Pacific Island neighbors - Breaking Defense
  2. New Zealand must boost military spending as Pacific power struggle intensifies, review finds | New Zealand | The Guardian
  3. New Zealand Military ‘Not in a Fit State,’ Government Says (
  4. New Zealand, Fiji sign agreement to boost defence ties | Reuters