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NZ Arsenal

Creating a military public-private partnership


All weapons and equipment are developed and manufactured by the private sector. In most countries the military work with private suppliers to develop better equipment. The other option is to improve logistics. NZ Helicopter operates helicopters all over South East Asia at a fraction of the hourly operating cost of the NZDF. By leveraging off civilian experience the NZDF could significantly reduce its operating costs - but only with the right structures to do it.
Uniforms are one place to start. New Zealand has outdoor clothing manufacturers with excellent fashion offerings yet the three services seem to revel in uniforms that are woefully out of date. By combining them into a single smaller organisation it becomes possible to ditch the 1970s look for dress and day uniforms and adopt 21st century textile and manufacturing technology. A more effective camouflage pattern is a life-saver. There is no reason why a smaller force can't have the best defensive uniform money can buy.

Then there is small-arms. Rather than buy 12,000 Steyr AUGs automatic rifles/carbines units could pick-and-mix from a range of weapons suitable to their tactical requirements. The Steyrs are reasonable enough 5.56mm jungle rifles but in the hills you sometimes need a bigger longer-ranged rifle. We have enough Steyrs that we could adapt some to the 6.8mm Remington SPC but we might also want some 7.62mm and the new 8.6mm weapons as well. On the other hand there may also be situations where holding a big gun is not the image you want to project but there is still sufficient threat to carry one. Perhaps a discrete 4.6mm personal defence weapon is a better choice. Given that we will never deploy more than 1000 troops we don't need to have 12,000 of these things, no more than a thousand or about $2m dollars worth.
The same goes for vehicles. The Office of the Auditor General could find no real reason why we bought 105 LAVs at a whopping $7m each (most battle tanks cost less than that) other than sheer opportunism by the NZDF general staff.  The Pinzgauers and HX trucks are useful but we lack a mine-proof armoured vehicle (under 10 tonnes), we lack amphibious vehicles, and we lack tracked vehicles for truly dreadful terrain. Once again we don't need hundreds of these. Just a useful number, probably no more than 24 (or about $15m worth)  The same goes for specialised equipment. If we pay people to operate artillery pieces the question becomes what sort of artillery pieces do we need. If we pay people to operate a range of heavy weapons the question becomes what sort of heavy weapons are most useful for the all-hazards model when heavy weapons are called for? Mortars? Drones? Missiles? Another example: should we consider buying a dozen tanks? We don't need a lot of tanks because we will almost certainly never use them and they cost a fortune to transport but are they worth $40m just to have on hand (compared to 105 LAVs for $700m for example)? The programme for heavy fire-support for the LAVs is on the Ministry of Defence's 'one-day' list. Would we be better off with a dozen heavily armoured vehicles instead just in case we need something that can withstand heavy small-arms fire (which is still risky in a light armoured vehicle)?
Then there is the sea and air. The proposed Marine battalion is organised around a lot more fast patrol vessels. What should these look like? What should they be able to do? Do we want bigger high speed interceptor launches or smaller RHIBS?  In the air we have settled on NH90s and a proposed transport/MPA aircraft but what about the Naval helicopter to replace the Kaman Seasprite? A big long range chopper?Navalise the NH90 or something else? What sort of smaller and training aircraft should we be thinking about given that? Do we want amphibians able to land on the sea and carry out minor SAR work?
A smaller defence force inevitably has to do more. That means more skilled personnel, more training, but also the right tools for every job. The objective is not to slash the defence force by simply reducing Vote Defence by 25% it is to cut vote defence and provide better all-hazards defence for taxpayers.  Some of this means leveraging off civilian operators like Helicopters New Zealand, like our international catering firms and like civilian contractors and consultants. But there are some things only a duly constituted defence force can do. Nobody else is authorised to carry deadly weapons and train to use them against organised external combatants. Defence personnel are required to put their lives on the line for the sake of government policy. The least the government can do is give them every possible advantage should they need to do so.

Industrial Development for New Zealand Firms

The following are discussions on how the purchase of particular types of operational equipment could be used to assist New Zealand industry

Operational Equipment

The following are discussions on the merits of various forms of imported operational equipment

Organisation of the New Zealand Arsenal

The splitting of defence into a Ministry and a force was one of those applications of the funder-provider split which Treasury imposed in the 1990s without much thought. In an area where funding is not contestable the split has made little sense. The defence force has been a much more savvy purchaser of equipment when left to its own devices (eg the Boeing 737s and the HX trucks) than when it grandstands via a Ministry. Critiques of the defence force have tended to come, not from the Ministry but the Office of the Auditor General, and external reviews. Given that the defence force is responsible to so many other civilian agencies the role of the Ministry is far from clear, and this review proposes scrapping it.

Instead however there is a natural difference between the people who administer and look after equipment and those who operate it. Those who use the equipment are the customers, those that supply it, the vendors.   The idea of the New Zealand Arsenal is a largely civilian organisation with the engineering and administrative ability to provide equipment to the operational side of the military. The Arsenal would be responsible for purchase, resale, maintenance, supply, administration and storage. Security for the Arsenal would be a combination of operational personnel and automated systems.

The Arsenal would also be responsible for the development interface with New Zealand industry. Development contracts would be testing and specification driven with high input from the ultimate customers. The Defence Force would be free to criticise the Arsenal as if felt fit.

The Arsenal would be divided into Departments as follows:


Departments are large scale integrated bits of equipment with numerous complex sub-components.

  • Transport Aircraft
  • Transport Ships
  • Aerospace Reconnaissance
  • Naval Reconnaissance
  • Operational Helicopters
  • Land Motor Pool
  • Infantry Field Systems
  • Munitions

*Some systems could be fully or partially subcontracted to NZ firms for on-going maintenance. The NH90, LAV III and KC-390 (+E-190) are somewhat unique in NZ.

The arsenal's job is to provide a return on capital for each asset. That is to make sure that equipment is available in a workable condition when required but not to over-invest in unused capital.

Departments are to be funded for Research and Development for work with New Zealand industry.

Network Defence

Network defence is concerned with the information integration within the force both on the field and through to its management systems. It also provides offensive network capability like scanners and jammers.

  • Tactical Operational Systems
  • Field Trunk Systems
  • Network Security Operations
  • Mapping Systems
  • Records Management

NZ Arsenal Size

The size of the arsenal is to be benchmarked against civilian and other military operations where appropriate to ensure it does not engage in scope creep.