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Industrial potential

What industries could military spending assist?

New Zealanders tend to under-estimate New Zealand firms industrial capability. In fact New Zealand industry is surprisingly capable. Indeed more so than perhaps the Ministry of Defence itself allows.

In most nations expenditure on defence is used as a means to challenge local industry to achieve export quality solutions. Buying kit isn't about going shopping it is about local development. Nowhere is this plainer than Singapore's relationship with ST Engineering and ST Kinetics. ST Kinetics makes small arms, munitions, armoured fighting vehicles and ships. Another example is Turkey which is also developing the same industrial capability and winning export orders in the processDeveloping industrial infrastructure from defence requirements is certainly not unusual.


The New Zealand Defence Industry Association has the following list of Members. These are the firms currently used by the NZDF, or who believe that membership of the NZDIA will assist them gain orders in defence markets.

Principle New Zealand owned NZDIA firms involved Aerospace are
  • Airwork (an industry-leading helicopter engineering and maintenance company)
  • SafeAir (an aviation maintenance, repair, overhaul (MRO), design and manufacturing business with capability for engines, airframes and components)
  • Pacific Aerospace Corporation (a designer and manufacturer of light utility and training aircraft)
  • Air New Zealand Engineering (well known air maintenance operation)

Principle New Zealand owned firms in the NZDIA involved in Maritime industry are

Principle New Zealand owned firms in the NZDIA involved in the land systems industry are

  • Tidd Ross Todd (Manufacturing Engineering, Truck and Trailer Parts, Mechanical Service and Repair, along with Crane)
  • Industrial Research ( the Crown Owned Research group)
  • Beca Group ( New Zealand's largest engineering consultancy)



New Zealand has some surprising firms in the aerospace segment. That said those already noted in the NZDIA are very serious contenders.

These include:

YouTube Video

video NZ Herald

This company is building a New Zealand based rocket capability. Rockets are potentially useful vehicles for launching reconnaissance and communications platforms such as satellites. Small communications relay satellites could be particularly useful for supporting Unpiloted Aerial Vehicles. The company has developed a liquid-solid fuel rocket which can launch a 100kg payload for US$6m instead of the usual $150m,
There is also the obvious potential use as the platform for a ballistic missile for delivering lighter submunitions (such as GPS or image-guided bombs). These could be launched from ships.
competition: Lots
potential market niche: very low cost, small relay and observation satellite launch platform.
technical lead: high.

YouTube Video

This tiny New Zealand firm is making a noise for itself selling a carbon-fibre experimental helicopter kitset for a fraction of the cost of fully certified aircraft.
Competition: Lots
potential niche: Low cost kitset helicopters
Technical lead: limited.

Martin Jetpack Video

video: Martin Jetpack

Some people scoff at the Martin Jetpack. While it is true the firm has been hit hard by the Canterbury earthquakes it is alos true some of New Zealand's best venture capitalists are behind this venture. Jetpacks are particularly useful for ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore boarding, urban fire-fighting, search and rescue and possibly even as a replacement for parachutes for airborne forces. 

competition: not much
niche: large once credibility secured
technical lead: serious

A firm developing a small hand-launched UAV (Kahu). This system has been trialled by the NZ Army. It has a range of 25km which is about the same as 155mm artillery guns. In theory the system could be used from ships as well as aircraft.

competition: lots
niche: limited
technical lead: none


New Zealand has a large marine industry and, of course, a Marine Industry Association.

This firm is no start-up. Hamilton jet invented the jetboat and is still one of the leading manufacturers of jetboat engines. The size of jetboat engines has been steadily increasing to the point that some craft could well be considered ocean-going vessels.

picture Hamilton Jet

Another well-established firm. Naiad is a well-known name in Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIB). These are by necessity smaller faster vessels.

picture Naiad

Specialises in wavepiercer designs. Known in New Zealand for the Earthrace/Ady Gil which was lost after a dispute with Japanese whalers. The designer also has specifications for patrol craft.

Land Systems

New Zealand grows lots of wool. Not surprisingly we have good clothing firms. Clothing is an important part of any service, Uniform design creates an esprit du corps, but it also can keep a soldier safe from fire and being shot (camouflage) as well as the elements that can kill just as easily.

This 3News item backgrounds the current NZDF soldiers kit. In my view 55kg is too heavy and $6,500 per soldier too little. As we have only ever deployed up to 1000 soldiers the 2,000 kits would only cost $13 million. As the most important item of equipment in our inventory I see no reason to not buy the absolute best and improve NZ industry at the same time.

Armadillo Merino

Although not a New Zealand firm Armadillo Merino is using New Zealand merino wool for the innermost layer of ballistic protection systems. See this article.

The Swazi company specialises in outdoor clothing to keep people alive and comfortable in miserable conditions. Prices are expensive but quality is high.

New Zealand's favourite pack firm also does outdoor clothing.

More about looking cool outdoors than getting dirty, Icebreaker does however have a modern design which would make any uniform cool.

A firm specialising in clothes for rough working environments

The Swing Thru system was deployed by the New Zealand Army in East Timor and was used in Logistics Over The Shore (LOTS) operations at Suai. The situation in Suai was unique in that there was no port facility and equipment had to be transferred from cargo ships to landing craft which offloaded onto the beach. The Swing Thru units, with their ability to pick up a container on one side and transfer it to a truck on the other, were able to clear a landing craft in 10 minutes, compared with almost an hour needed to de-van on the ship and load individual items onto the landing craft.

New Zealand entrepreneur Alan Gibbs is being taken seriously by the United States Department of Defense with his High Speed Amphibian technology. Lockheed Martin is developing a range of amphibious vehicles incorporating the technology. That said Gibbs has spent a very long time in Research and Development without actually selling any vehicles which suggests that its iincome comes from other sources.

The US managed to spend $3 billion developing the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle only to have the programme cancelled in 2011 by Defence Secretary Gates on the grounds it was way over budget. Meanwhile the Chinese developed the ZBD2000 with much the same specification and performance and already have the machine deployed with the PLA Marines Corps.