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The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is the armed forces of New Zealand, tasked with the defense of the country.

The military was descended from the militias that followed the settlement of New Zealand by the British. The militias had to deal with the Maori warrior tribes, as well as supporting the British presence there. Their first foray into global conflict came with the Boer War. They were the other half of the ANZAC name in World War I, and they also served in the Second War. You may see them wearing the iconic "lemon squeezer" hat, which is still used today on ceremonial occasions. A battalion was deployed during The Vietnam War as the only force to be fully 'professional' - i.e. entirely made up of professional soldiers, with no conscripts or volunteers in their numbers.


New Zealand's only major neighbour, Australia, is also its biggest ally. Therefore, New Zealand's military has been downsized since the end of the Cold War, and is now usually sent for peacekeeping missions or disaster relief. A plan to buy F-16s was scrapped by the Labour government in 2000, which means that New Zealand currently does not have any fighter capability. New Zealand still has an Air Force, but its main function is to patrol their surrounding sea territories, and for this purpose has opted for multi-role helicopters like the NH90, which has proven rather handy in natural disasters like the Kaikoura earthquakes. However, it still has a distinct military tradition in the Commonwealth armies, and has a large fleet of light armoured vehicles at its disposal that saw use in Afghanistan.


New Zealand also has its own version of the Special Air Service (SAS).

NZDF equipment


  • 105 light armoured vehicles (NZLAV)
  • 321 light operational vehicles (Pinzgauer)

Air Force

  • 13 utility/transport helicopters (NH90, AW109)
  • 8 naval helicopters (SH-2G Super Seasprite)
  • 7 transport aircraft (C-130 Hercules, Boeing 757)
  • 6 maritime patrol aircraft (P-3 Orion)
  • 15 trainer aircraft (T-6 Texan II, Super King Air)


  • 2 Anzac class frigates
  • 1 multi-role vessel (HMNZS Canterbury)
  • 1 replenishment vessel (HMNZS Endeavour)
  • 2 Protector class offshore patrol vessels
  • 4 Protector class inshore patrol vessels
  • 1 diving tender (HMNZS Manawanui)


Fun facts

  • Like many other New Zealand government organisations, the Defence Force and its branches have Māori names:
    • New Zealand Defence Force: 'Te Ope Kaatua o Aotearoa "New Zealand's line of defence"
    • Royal New Zealand Air Force: Te Taua-a-rangi o Aotearoa "New Zealand's warriors of the sky"
    • Royal New Zealand Navy: Te Taua Moana o Aotearoa "New Zealand's warriors of the sea"
    • New Zealand Army: Ngāti Tūmatauenga "The Tribe of Tūmatauenga (the Māori god of war)".
  • New Zealand is completely nuclear-free. Not only does it not possess any nuclear weapons, it's illegal to bring a nuclear weapon or nuclear-powered ship within 12 nautical miles of the New Zealand coastline. As the United States refuses to declare whether or not their Navy ships are nuclear equipped, they are effectively banned from New Zealand waters.

NZDF in Fiction


  • Chunuk Bair (1992) told the story of the Wellington Regiment of ANZAC troops serving at Gallipoli.


  • The 2004 short film Tama Tu explored the close bonds between Maori Battalion soldiers in Italy.
  • Home By Christmas (2010)
  • Keith Mallory the protagonist of The Guns of Navarone is a mountaineer turned soldier from New Zealand. And he doesn’t like it when the Germans say he is “English”.


  • The 1977 film Sleeping Dogs features the NZ Army as supporting characters, as do Shaker Run (1985) and Never Say Die (1988).
  • The Tomorrow Series has them coming to the aid of their Australian allies, who have just been invaded by an unidentified Asian country (implied to be Indonesia). The SAS plays a role in aiding the resistance in the occupied areas of the country.
  • Wargame: Red Dragon has New Zealand appear as part of the ANZAC faction.


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