While the cost of operating large things like ships or aircraft is relatively easy to examine and compare the Army is rather more opaque. The army has 4,539 regulars, 1569 territorials. Interestingly this is smaller than Fiji's army which has 3,500 regulars and 6,000 reservists. It's budget totals $841 million a year or $137,688 per soldier.

For the purposes of the budgeting Treasury draws the following distinctions:

Special operations force

Special ops is budgeted to cost $87 million a year. It includes

  • 1st New Zealand Special Air Service Regiment (Papakura Military Camp)[11]
    • A Squadron
    • B Squadron
    • D Squadron (Commando) - designated the Counter Terrorist Tactical Assault Group until 2009.
    • E Squadron (EOD)
    • Support Squadron
    • Special Operations Training Centre
    • Reserve Squadron
    Equipped with
    13 Special Operations Pinzgauers

    The UK SAS troops comprise of 16 men, led by a captain. There are 4 troops within each squadron, each specialising in a different method of insertion. The troops are Air Troop, Boat Troop, Mountain Troop and Mobility Troop. Non-officers who pass SAS selection lose their previous rank and are assigned the rank of trooper. Troops are numbered e.g. B Squadron comprises 6,7,8 and 9 Troops. Each troop consists of a number of 4-man patrols, each typically led by a corporal.

    If NZ follows the UK model this suggests the NZSAS numbers about 300. That suggests a budget per trooper of $300,000. As the SAS are highly trained, travel  a lot and, of course, face considerable danger it should not be surprising that they are our most expensive troops.

    The NZSAS are well regarded by most international militaries and, from the point of view of international diplomacy represent the "best foot" of the NZDF. 

    Land Combat Force

    The Land combat force is the source of the SAS but there are aspects of it which are certainly less than stellar. The land combat force is budgeted to cost about $380 million a year. This includes:

    • Headquarters, 1st Brigade (Linton Military Camp)

    • 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (Linton Military Camp)
      • Alpha Company
      • Victor Company
      • Support Company
      • Combat Service Support Company

    • 2/1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (Burnham Military Camp)
      • Alpha Company
      • Bravo Company
      • Delta Company
      • Support Company
      • Combat Service Support Company
      • Depot Company

    • Queen Alexandra's Mounted Rifles (Linton Military Camp)
      • Wellington East Coast Squadron
      • NZ Scots Squadron
      • Waikato Mounted Rifles Squadron
      • Support Squadron

    • The Army Depot (Waiouru Military Camp)

    • Waiouru Military Training Facility (Waiouru Military Camp

      Territorial Units

    • 2/4th Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment[12] (Burnham Military Camp)
      • Canterbury Nelson Marlborough and West Coast Company
      • Otago Southland Company (Dunedin)

    • 3/6th Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment[12] (Papakura Military Camp)
      • Auckland (Countess of Ranfurly’s Own) and Northland Company
      • Hauraki Company (Tauranga)

    • 5/7th Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment[12] (Trentham Military Camp)
      • Wellington, West Coast and Taranaki Company (Linton Military Camp)
      • Wellington (City of Wellington’s Own) and Hawke’s Bay Company (Wellington)

    The land combat force is equipped with:

    95 LAV III Light armoured vehicles
    ~200 Pinzgauer light operational vehicles
    42 Carl Gustav 84mm RCL
    24 Javelin Light Anti tank missiles
    50 81mm mortars
    Heckler & Koch 40mm AGL

    Of these elements the LAV III is probably the most contentious. Bought for $7m each the LAV III is another atrocious rip off.  The total order came to $750 million for 105 vehicles. The $7.14m per unit cost is more twice what Finland paid for 100 reconditioned Dutch Leopard 2 A6 tanks in 2014 ($3.2m each).  While there is no point New Zealand owning 60-tonne battle tanks (as most bridges in the Pacific wouldn't support them) spending more than a tank on an armoured infantry fighting vehicle with no anti-tank capability is rather odd. The vehicle can only carry seven troops or 3.5 tonnes payload which is very small by any IFV or APC standard. Hershel quite rightly complained at the time that the tender specification was issued by the NZDF that it effectively specified only the LAV III putting Hershel's very sensible Fuchs Transportpanzer II (with ten tonne payload capability and good amphibious capability) out of contention. Moreover the LAV IIIs are too large to transport in our airforce aircraft and aren't amphibious so they aren't any use for sea landings or river crossings either - something of an oversight in the weapons systems of a Pacific Island nation. The Office of the Auditor General report is here.

    The New Zealand land combat force is generally extremely light on anti-tank capability. Given that our helicopters have no anti-tank capability either this seems a bit of an omission. The LAV III 25mm cannon is one of the smallest used on modern infantry fighting vehicles (most have 30mm) and it has no anti-tank missile system. The army relies on Javelin anti-tank missiles fired by infantrymen hiding in bushes (but very vulnerable to return machine gun and mortar fire), and the Carl Gustav recoilless rifle which is a close quarters anti-armour weapon. 

    While the force has a large number of infantry it's most expensive tools remain hard to deploy, vulnerable to all anti-armour weapons (including 40mm grenades), and outclassed if up against most infantry fighting vehicles.  The LAV III looks like the perfect weapon to have exercises in but not as good as more deadly designs should it come to actual fighting. 

    Increasingly the role of the general infantryman is passing. Today's infantry are needing more and more specialised skills, such as policing skills, engineering skills and diplomatic skills. A large number of fit, young men with heaps of testosterone and weapons training is increasingly becoming more of a liability than an asset.

    Land combat support force

    This force is budgeted to cost $204 million a year. This includes artillery, engineers, communications and military police force elements.

  • 16th Field Regiment, Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery (Linton Military Camp)
  • 161 Battery
  • 163 Battery
  • 11/4 Battery (Papakura Military Camp)

  • Equipped with:
    24 105mm light guns
    12 Mistral low level anti aircraft missile systems
    68 Pinzgauer light operational vehicles

  • 2nd Engineer Regiment (Linton Military Camp)
    • 1st Field Squadron
    • 2nd Field Squadron
    • 3rd Field Squadron (Burnham Military Camp)
    • 25 Engineer Support Squadron
    • Emergency Response Squadron
    Equipped with 
    10 Engineering LAV IIIs
    6 Combat Tractors
    ? MAN Truck launched bridging system

  • 1st New Zealand Signal Regiment (Linton Military Camp)
    • 1st (New Zealand) Intelligence Company
    • 2nd Signal Squadron
    • 3rd Signal Squadron (Electronic Warfare) (Burnham Military Camp)
    • 4th Signal Squadron (Burnham Military Camp)
    • 25 Cypher Section
  • 1st Military Police Company (Trentham)

    The land combat support force is becoming more and more important in today's complex military environment. Military engineering can be deployed not only to fighting situations but also to disaster response.  Electronic warfare is becoming crucial to defence against improvised explosive devices, intelligence, drones, and, of course, traditional command and coordination.  While New Zealand Military Police have traditionally been kept for pursuing errant soldiers internationally military police are being deployed into situations which require policing skills as well as military ones. 

    New Zealand's artillery is obsolete. The 105mm gun has been supplanted internationally by 120mm mortar systems and most guns used today are 155mm pieces. Artillery has become increasingly sophisticated, using laser guided shells (120mm mortar or 155mm gun), computerised aiming systems, counter battery radar, and even drones for fire control we either need to catch up or abandon the pretense that we need big guns for anything other than ceremonial occasions.

    Land combat service support force

    This set of units cost $170 million a year. This includes transport, medical, supply, maintenance support and movements force elements.

  • 2nd Combat Service Support Battalion (Linton Military Camp)
    • 10th Transport Company
    • 21st Supply Company
    • 2nd Workshop Company
    • 5th Movements Company
    • Combat Service Support Company (North)
    • 38th Combat Service Support Company (Territorial Force)
  • 3rd Combat Service Support Battalion (Burnham Military Camp)
    • 3rd Transport Company
    • 3rd Catering & Supply Company
    • 3rd Workshop Company
  • 2nd Health Services Battalion (New Zealand) (Linton Military Camp)
    • 1st Health Support Company
    • 2nd Health Support Company
    • 3rd Health Support Company (Burnham Military Camp)
    • General Support Health Company
    • Logistics Support Company
  • Linton Regional Support Centre (Linton Military Camp)

  • Equipped with
    Fleet of MAN HX trucks (194)
    8 Pinzgauer ambulances
    15 Shelter carrier Pinzgauers

    This need for this part of the force as a military unit is increasingly passing. The provision of logistics, catering, and support services is increasingly passing to international companies (including New Zealand ones) such as ESS,  Mainfreight, Serco, and Spotless who have international assets they may well have deployed to places the UN or our allies are operating anyway. It is cheaper to hire the services of firms which support operations in difficult and out of the way places all the time than to try and maintain that capability in an army which rarely deploys in this fashion in any scale.

    The one exception is biowarfare operations. This may include bioterrorism or natural outbreaks of pathogens dangerous to either people or agricultural assets. It stretches from safe food production in biohazardous conditions to secure mortuary services. This is a complex and important risk area for New Zealand but no one our military have specialised in.

    Appropriated as overhead

    Training and Doctrine Command
    • Headquarters, Training and Doctrine Command (Waiouru Military Camp)
    • NZ Collective Training Centre (Linton Military Camp)
      • Tactical School (Linton Military Camp)
      • Combat School (Linton Military Camp)
      • School of Artillery (Linton Military Camp)
      • School of Military Intelligence (Linton Military Camp)
      • School of Military Engineering (Linton Military Camp)
      • Logistics Operations School (Linton Military Camp)
      • School of Signals (Linton Military Camp)
      • Mission Command Training School (Linton Military Camp)
      • Trade Training School (Trentham Military Camp)
    • Army Command School
      • Officer Cadet School (New Zealand)
      • Non Commissioned Officer & Warrant Officer Development Wing
      • Army Leadership Centre (Burnham Military Camp)
    Obviously every Army needs its schools as staff retire from the force. 


    This page describes our current international deployments.  There are usually less than 200 troops (out of our 4,539 regulars, and 1,569 territorials deployed.) The most we have deployed since World War Two was 1,044 army troops in Kayforce sent to Korea.  The most in Vietnam at any one time was 583 while in Timor Leste there were "more than a thousand" New Zealand military people.  In short the most we ever send anywhere is about a battalion and air support. In many cases they are sent to provide engineering, police and health services rather than conduct combat operations. The exception is the NZSAS who are our combat specialists.


    There are a lot of people employed by the army who are there to provide a capability which is not strictly military. Stores, logistics, facilities management, catering, all of this is increasingly provided by international businesses. Engineering in response to cyclones is similarly not strictly military business either. What the military are meant to be about is the sharp end of conflict: security, offence, counter-attack. What has happened is that we have let the military provide national representation in response to disaster to partially justify outrageous expensive systems which are not particularly suited to disasters but are not particularly good militarily either.

    The notion that the NZDF is a cadre force pending a full mobilisation is also wishful thinking by the military. Instead of imagining a situation where New Zealand is returned to 1939 again we should be looking at the realities of around us. The world has globalised and the once clear cut divisions between military and civilian have almost disappeared. All too often the enemy are civilians ("terrorists"), some of the soldiers are privateers, and there are aid agencies, and media firms all caught up in the mix. In such an environment notions of some WW2 manoeuvre warfare with clear battlefields, logistics chains and the like are simply nonsense.  The environment is one that requires a completely new understanding of the state in conflict.