New Zealand Defence Force

The mission for the New Zealand Defence Force is "to secure New Zealand against external threat, to protect our sovereign interests, including the Exclusive Economic Zone, and to take action to meet likely contingencies in New Zealand’s area of strategic interest". 


The New Zealand Defence Force is spread across camps and bases throughout New Zealand. Its national strategic headquarters are in Wellington and the operational joint headquarters are at Trentham in Upper Hutt.

The Chief of Defence Force commands the Defence Force and is supported by the Chief of Navy, Chief of Army, Chief of Air Force and the Joint Force Commander. This section details the structure and personnel who command the Defence Force, and presents in-depth information about the functions of Headquarters New Zealand Defence Force.

SAR Role

The NZDF’s air search and rescue capability delivers vital public service both in New Zealand and overseas.

Following are the NZDF assets on SAR standby 24/7:

  • 1X Navy vessel at 8 hours’ notice to move
  • 1X Air Force P-3K2 Orion surveillance aircraft at 2 hours' notice to move
  • 1X Air Force NH90 medium utility helicopter at 2 hours' notice to move

The Air Force’s NH90 medium utility helicopters are used primarily for Category 1 SAR operations. They have two rescue hoists that can lift up to 250 kilograms and can fly in all weather conditions, day or night. Photo: New Zealand Defence Force.

The Air Force’s P-3K2 Orion surveillance aircraft are used primarily for Category 2 SAR operations. The Orion is a long-range patrol aircraft equipped with a military sensor suite and a radar that allows long-range surface search for stricken vessels. It has observation windows for effective placement of visual observers helping search for missing persons or vessels.


Offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington was requested to evacuate a government staff member with a potentially serious condition from the Antipodes Islands while on a resupply mission in the Auckland Islands in March 2018. The Antipodes are about 900 kilometres northeast of the Auckland Islands and 850 kilometres southeast of Bluff. The journey to the Auckland Islands or Bluff from the Antipodes takes up to two days at sea.


Copyright 2020 by NZSAR
Tuesday, May 26, 2020