NZ’s defence needs an overhaul

Dr Lance Beath says that NZ’s army-focussed defence strategy is outdated (being based on the structure in the First World War and the Boer War!) and we need a radical redesign of the whole system.

His suggestions include

  • Increased funding (greater than 1% of GDP).
  • We must have a combat air force.
  • Focus on maritime forces, due to our location.
  • Restructure the army as an embarked marine combat brigade.
  • More ships for the navy.

These are the people we should be listening to. Instead the government scraps our aerial combat wing, and buys armoured vehicles we can’t even carry in our transport aircraft and that aren’t amphibious so are of limited use in island combat anyway. This follows on from the recent official military report that the military is seriously unprepared for combat.

The Family Party will increase defence spending to 2% of GDP. But we need to be listening to people like this to figure out where the money should actually be spent. Maybe we should be bringing the Aermacchi’s back into service (they’re still not that old), and mothballing the Skyhawks as a war reserve? Maybe we should be buying a few small submarines? We certainly need more teeth in the military than it has at present. Most importantly, we need good relationships with like-minded countries.

My personal view is that we should be focussing on accumulating heavy firepower, ships and aircraft, and not worrying so much about having a much larger infantry (although we will be reviving the Maori Battalions). We have a well-armed population and could knock together a large home guard at short notice if we were desperate. But we cannot obtain heavy firepower once a war has started, you need to have that already.

We also need to have a detailed analysis of how we would survive should our supply lines be cut. In the last major combat that affected us, WWII, we were much less reliant on imports. Now virtually everything we use is imported, from light bulbs to fuel to many foods. We need to know how to deal with being cut off from the rest of the world, as today this would affect us far more severely than it did in WWII.