The 'Know Your Region' series is designed to support unit and individual professional military education on the South East Asian region. It's important for all serving members of our military to have a foundational knowledge of the countries and issues in the Indo-Pacific.
Note: Here is a fantastic article by Phillip Hermes published on The Cove last year – Wen bai yupela kam bak gen?
PNG – MILITARY
On this page:
- Military capability
- Military co-operation with Australia
PNG maintains a small but proud military force known as the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF), with three services (land, air, and maritime) providing defence services for the nation. PNG spends just under 2% of annual GDP on its defence. The PNGDF is responsible for defending the nation from external attack, but often assists in nation building and internal security tasks. It has an active service list comprising of approximately 2,500 personnel, the majority of which serve in the land element.
The majority of its military training and traditions come from Australia, which maintained a Pacific Island Regiment up until independence, at which time it was subsumed into the PNGDF. However, during recent times, military assistance and equipment has been forthcoming from China.
For further reading on PNG’s military capability, see the resources below: (a reminder, videos are available to view on your mobile devices or stand alone laptops - not on the DPN)
- Neighbourhood watch on PNG’s border security | Australian Strategic Policy Institute | ASPI
- PNGDF – GlobalSecurity
- The PNGDF – Land, Air and Maritime Elements, history and ranks
- The Defence Modernization in Papua New Guinea, Between Domestic Issues, Economy and Geopolitics – Paper by Policy Advisor European Parliament 2017
Military co-operation with Australia
PNG military co-operation with Australia traces its origins back to the First World War, when Australian forces captured German New Guinea. During the New Guinea campaign of World War Two, local tribesman frequently assisted Australian servicemen, particularly during the Kokoda Campaign. They became affectionately known as the ‘fuzzy wuzzy’ angels.
Since independence in 1975, Australia and PNG have held close military links with the provision of training and equipment the cornerstone of their relationship. PNGDF personnel frequently attend Australian training facilities, including RMC-Duntroon and ADFA. The PNGDF participated in the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Island (RAMSI), supplementing Australian and other regional forces. During the 2020 bushfires, the PNGDF sent a contingent of engineers to assist in recovery efforts.
- Australia should help PNG rebuild its security forces
- ADF to fund $175 million upgrade for PNG Naval base on Manus Island
- PNGDF Pre-Deployment Handbook – for ADF personnel deploying to PNG
- MOU between Australia and PNG on cyber security
- PNG-Australia Defence Cooperation Program
- PNGDF bushfire assistance
- Australia’s strategic partnership with PNG – The Cove
- As a small military, the PNGDF relies heavily on assistance from Australia in terms of training and equipment. Does the PNG government’s signature on the Chinese belt and road initiative present a threat to this relationship? What should Australia do to reinforce the military cooperation?
- With tensions increasing across the South China Sea, there is a likelihood that smaller nations in the Indo-Pacific region will be pursued diplomatically by larger regional players. What military opportunities present themselves to Australia to assist in maintaining closer ties with PNG?
- Various reports suggest the PNGDF wished to increase its strength to 10,000 by 2030. What factors will both assist and prohibit achieving this goal. What role should the PNGDF play in the Oceanic region from 2030?