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.

On this page:

  • Military information
  • Structure
  • Co-Operation with Australia

Military Information

Though Tonga participated in World War I as part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, the Tonga Defence Force (TDF) was not established until 1939 at the beginning of World War II. The courage and determination of the Tongan people and their respect for their Queen was clearly evidenced by the fact that virtually every adult man in the Kingdom volunteered to serve. In 1943, New Zealand helped train approximately 2,000 Tongan troops who saw action in the Solomon Islands. This campaign helped turn the tide of the war in the Pacific, which up until that point had been an unbroken string of Japanese victories.

The TDF was disbanded at the end of the war but was reactivated in 1946 as the Tonga Defence Services. The name was changed in 2013 to His Majesty’s Armed Forces (HMAF) in a parliamentary vote (7-10). In more recent conflicts, Tongan troops deployed to Iraq from 2004-2008 and Afghanistan to support UK forces from 2010-2014.


The HMAF includes both Land and Naval components and an Air Wing. Their declared mission is to defend the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Tonga. The HMAF consists of approximately 500-700 active military personnel.

The main elements are:

  • His Majesty's Armed Forces HQ
  • Joint Force HQ
  • Land Force
  • Tongan Royal Guards
  • Royal Tongan Marines
  • Combined Logistics and Technical Support
  • Tongan Navy
  • Training Command
  • Air Wing
  • Support Unit
  • Territorial Forces

Tonga military's inventory includes mostly light weapons and equipment from Australia, European countries (primarily the UK), and the US; nearly all of its military acquisitions in recent years have come from Australia (2023).

Military Co-Operation with Australia

Australia is listed as a key Defence partner of Tonga in its HMAF Corporate Plan and Budget along with New Zealand, USA, UK, India, and China. In particular it lists training and education as a key component of Australia’s military support to Tonga. Tonga provides instructors to foreign military training schools including the Australian Defence International Training Centre and the Australian Defence Force Academy. Tonga aims to have 10 personnel participate in the annual Australian Army Community Assistance Program, as well as provide 3 personnel per year to be trained as instructors in Australia and provided on job training through a posting as an instructor within Australia.

For further information on Tonga’s military, see the resource below: