Systems means "a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network; a complex whole". Some systems are very large, like defence communications, while others are quite limited in their application e.g artillery. It is, admittedly, something of a catch-all term.

The military does some systems reasonably well. Training is given more attention in the military than in the private sector, although I remember one lieutenant complaining when I put this to him that "it's all we ever do."

Other systems like defence communications are somewhat circumscribed by who you want to communicate with. For example in 2001 we spent $11m on ITT air ground Sincars radios so we could talk to the US military - always a good idea if you don't want them to flatten you. The Army is currently out for tender for "The Network Enabled Army (NEA) programme will modernise the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) tactical command and control (C2) systems in the land environment together with supporting computers, communications and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) networks which support deployed land forces. NEA will be delivered in four tranches over twelve years, with Tranche 1 running until July 2018" ( MoD). As this is obviously essential and as we haven't acquired it yet there is no point commentating on it here other than to say under the focused structure it would become part of Defence Networks.

Instead there are two essential systems which deserve some attention. Uniforms and Artillery.


New Zealand military uniforms look like what they are: a lowest cost conforming tender process. The design is awful. By contrast the Bundeswehr and US Marines look hugely professional. Army non combat uniforms are spectacularly ugly, Air Force a slight improvement while the Navy (apart from the sailor suits) look reasonably professional.

 The Army's combat uniform was designed in association with Hyperstealth (whose website is diabolically amateurish looking) and, in my personal view is nothing like as persuasive as Multicam (which was also adopted by Australia, Chile, UK and the US). Given that camouflage is a vital part of protecting our soldiers I would have thought we would be prepared to spend a bit more money on it.

 NZ Army MCU Multicam

Uniforms aren't just about looks and appearances they are also practical tools or work. But if NZ Army meant practical, hard wearing and stylish it becomes a brand that can be capitalised on. New Zealand 's outdoor brand is used by a wide range of New Zealand fashion design houses. In short for a country which grows wool and sells outdoor experiences to tourists military uniforms are a fashion and research and development opportunity which should not be wasted.

Once again Defence Force, Defence Ventures in association with MBIE, CRIs and the outdoor clothing brands should be all over the opportunities to develop the NZ defence fashion "brand". By developing practical and hardwearing solutions not only can our military look better but we can merchandise spin offs to tourists.


Artillery is probably the most sophisticated weapon system in most modern armies.  There are systems like the vehicle mounted AMOS mortar which can lob four 120mm shells in less than ten seconds to eight kilometers away timed so they all land at once.  This is especially nasty when teamed with radars who detect incoming shells and rockets and compute where they came from because the firers can be fired upon before their shells even land. Then there are laser or GPS guided 120mm mortar and 155mm shells which go to where they are told to. Then there is the Draco 76mm rapid fire gun which can fire anti aircraft homing shells to 15km or GPS guided counter battery shells to the same distance. In short the combination of modern IT and artillery is extremely deadly. 

New Zealand's artillery consists of  24 1981 vintage 105mm Hamel guns.  The Hamel gun was developed long before the days of laser or GPS guided munitions and was probably never replaced because the last time we deployed artillery was during the Vietnam war. We also have 50 x 81mm mortars, which are company level infantry weapons.

In addition to the Hamel guns we also have the French Mistral anti aircraft missile. It has a range of 6km getting there in nine seconds. The missile is described as "very low" meaning it cannot shoot down aircraft flying at normal commercial jet operating height. This means GPS guided bombs can be dropped on New Zealand troops from these sorts of altitudes with impunity. Essentially the Mistral is to prevent counter insurgency aircraft and helicopters.

The New Zealand frigates have two five inch (127mm) guns. The guns fire up to 20 rounds a minute to up to 24km. At present there are no guided or GPS homing munitions for these guns. The Raytheon Pike system (a 40mm laser guided long range rocket) is a good example of the sophistication of modern intelligent munitions.

In other words New Zealand's artillery is quite obsolete.

Spending money on new artillery is rather hard. It's not used that often so most of the time its a waste of money. However if you need it, you rather want to work.

The focused defence force has one company of Rangers and Marines devoted to artillery. 

It is envisaged the training battery would use the existing 81mm mortars plus new 120mm infantry mortars such as the Soltam M-65. These are very cheap weapons which are easily moved by Land Cruiser or any helicopter. What can be expensive is the guided ammunition.

The anti aircraft batteries would continue to use the Mistral Vlaads system already acquired by the army. This would mostly be used to protect the static artillery and bases from helicopters or COIN aircraft.

However the static and mobile artillery need consideration. The static battery is basically air mobile. The objective is to be able to quickly move the battery into position on places like hilltops, dig in and then pound positions below.  In hilly terrain the mortar team could be flown in, out of sight behind a ridge line, and support Rangers or SAS moving unseen in the next valley who use laser designators to guide mortar shells onto targets. The idea is to move the battery again before the enemy can find it.

The static battery could use 120mm mortars with guided munition such as the laser guided US XM395, Saab Strix, Israel's GMM, to a range of about 8km or the GPS guided Raytheon Perm. This has a claimed range of 16km - about the same as the Hamel but with better accuracy. The mortar weighs about 150kg as compared to the Hamel which weighs 1.8T.  That means more of the load carried can be ammunition.

The mobile artillery is a different story entirely. Options include: the Patria Amos 120mm mortar turret shoehorned onto the LAV vehicle; the South African G6 155mm mobile gun system; or the Atmos 2000 155mm truck gun system from Israel. But the mobile artillery system is envisaged to be part of a mobile artillery system that is part of a mechanised column. The gun moves with the column and protects it. The proposal is therefore for the Draco system from Leonardo Finnmeccanica.

The Draco is a dual AA/Artillery gun with very intelligent ammunition: the DART guided anti aircraft shell; and the VOLCANO GPS guided artillery shell. It is the same 76mm ammunition used in the EPV vessels and can be fired by the LAV-76s. The weapon fires a lot of shells quickly and can be used for direct fire, counterbattery fire and AA fire. These weapons can be expected to be expensive but still well within the envelope of the funds recovered from selling 70 LAV IIIs.

Technology, sensors and targeting systems

From individual soldiers to multi million dollar aircraft sensors and targeting effectively determine the effectiveness of the system.  As technology changes these systems improve rapidly. Buying the latest greatest in large numbers at any particular time means that within five years the technology is old and that in ten years its obsolete.
This means that the strategy must be for  keeping hi tech systems in relatively low numbers of integrated systems (e.g the Seasprites) and acquiring only enough systems for any reasonable deployment and training requirement. So not every Cobra II vehicle needs thermal imaging systems, sniper detection, and targeting laser counter measures.

This is a training and acquisition strategy which attempts to balance the probable use of technology against the deprival cost of not having the technology. For example a communications/ear protection system for soldiers has high probable use and a high deprival cost because ear damage due to gunfire is a significant problem, but putting submarine Lidar on aircraft has a low probable use and low deprival cost because there are other ways of achieving the same result.