• Chief of Army Lieutenant General Simon Stuart and the New Zealand Chief of Army Major General John Boswell discuss Plan ANZAC at Defence House in Wellington, New Zealand. (Defence)
    Chief of Army Lieutenant General Simon Stuart and the New Zealand Chief of Army Major General John Boswell discuss Plan ANZAC at Defence House in Wellington, New Zealand. (Defence)

Under Plan ANZAC, signed between the New Zealand Army and Australian Army in April, the two forces will become more closely integrated than before.

It will also help the NZ Army regenerate its capabilities after losing skills and personnel in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The NZ Army will base itself on the Australian service.

ADM has received a copy of the Plan ANZAC Bilateral Service Cooperation Plan (BSCP) under New Zealand’s Official Information Act. The BSCP was developed as a framework for the provision of an increasing level of Australian involvement in the NZ Army’s regeneration effort.

It states that there are two outcomes for Plan ANZAC to be delivered under the BSCP. The first is that the NZ Army will be “capable of contributing a Motorised Infantry Battle Group (MOT INF BG) in an Australian-led Brigade within an integrated ABCANZ [American, British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand] Division”.

The BSCP added that the first outcome would also see a New Zealand Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) operate “alongside or within an Australian Special Operations Task Force (SOTF).”

However, the it states that the NZ Army “is not resourced for a full strength doctrinally capable MOT INF BG or SOTG within current restrictions imposed by retention challenges.”

The NZ Battle Group is typically resourced by two regular Motorised Infantry Companies and a reserve Light Infantry Company, whilst the SOTG consists of a single Special Operations Task Unit.

NZ Army capabilities were seriously degraded after taking on a large role in Operation Protect helping the New Zealand government manage its response to the COVID-19 pandemic from 2020-22. Instead of completing training programmes New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel were instead tasked with running managed isolation and quarantine hotels and conducting other tasks. Key skill sets were allowed to atrophy and recruitment and retention of personnel has reached critically low levels.

With Australian Army help, the NZ Army hopes to recover it capabilities. A spokesperson from the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) told ADM: “Future exercises with the Australian Army will focus on units with similar capability and capacity to increase readiness and the ability to more effectively respond to regional contingencies, whilst remaining aligned with existing NZDF priorities.”

And this is what Plan ANZAC’s second outcome is designed around. The BSCP stated that it wants to ensure that “sustained cooperation between Armies is resourced, managed and support interoperability… progressing to interchangeability.”

The BSCP said that interchangeability means: “The ability to substitute one item for another of different composition or origin without loss in effectiveness, accuracy, and safety of performance.” It could also herald the beginning of a much higher level of joint procurement activity.

This outcome will be achieved by synchronisation across four Lines of Operation (LOO) including: Strategic Engagement, Capability Cooperation, Training Integration, and Personnel Readiness. Each has a working group designated to achieving the LOO.

Under ‘Strategic Engagement’ the intention is to de-conflict Army engagements “by default” then synchronise and work to agreed objectives in the Pacific region improving the capacity to work together.

In future, “the intent is to create a routine and predictable rhythm of key exercises amongst Pacific forces,” the NZDF spokesperson said.

The ‘Capability Cooperation’ LOO is designed to ensure that decisions made on force design, capability, logistics and C4 will enable ANZAC interoperability. This is focused on developing mechanisms to understand each other’s doctrine, concepts and requirements to support defence equipment choices.

In the NZ Army’s newspaper published in May, it stated that this would include “information sharing” on the Bushmaster protected mobility vehicle (PMV) and the Sitaware Battle Management system. The NZDF received the first instalment of an expected 43 Bushmaster PMVs on 25 May.

Next, ‘Integrated Training Systems’ means that the NZ Army will undergo a “realignment” with Australian doctrine that will help achieve the objective of becoming interchangeable.

NZ Army news said this was its main effort for 2023-24. The NZDF spokesperson said training integration was a “priority” and explained that this includes “realignment to Australian Army Doctrine, the adoption of the Australian Army Training Instruction, and the Training Management Framework.”

The spokesperson added: “This is critical to improving our operational interoperability, not just with our Australian ally, but also with Five Eyes partners, and partners across the Pacific as well.”

In this way the NZ Army will regenerate toward a completely different model based on the Australian Army, but also reflect a new forward deployed regional engagement posture that is expected to be announced in New Zealand’s upcoming Defence Policy Review, the first elements of which are due to be published in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile under ‘People and Readiness’ there will be increased personnel exchanges to learn about each other’s initiatives from recruitment and retention to analysis and readiness profiles.

Part of this effort will include additional personnel exchanges beyond those at the junior rank level. The NZDF spokesperson said that in the short term “there will be greater interaction across mid to senior ranks in the areas of capability cooperation, training systems integration, personnel and readiness.” 

There will also be a review of the existing long-term exchange posting positions that the NZ Army has in Australia to ensure that its personnel are embedded at the right levels and in the locations to best support Plan ANZAC objectives.

The BSCP stated that efforts would be operationally focussed. This means achieving the “tactical interchangeability of the NZ Army platforms and operational level interoperability of the respective Land and Special Operations Forces.” This would allow the allocation of Australian Army or NZ Army within each other’s fielded formations for training or operations.

However, the NZDF spokesperson said Plan ANZAC does not create a new Joint Force of ADF and NZDF elements, but it will reinvigorate cooperation “across engagements, capability, training and personnel that will further improve our ability to work together on operations.”

A series of agreed to actions (ATAs) outlined in the BSCP state that an ANZAC Protected Mobility Working Group and Land C4 capability pathway programme has been established. The Bushmaster vehicles are a key part of the way in which cooperation between the two armies will be enhanced. The ATAs state that the NZDF is participating in the development of Protected Mobility Concept of Employment (CONEMP) with Australia to shape NZ Army concepts for the Bushmaster’s use.

It also highlights a series of ongoing reviews, key partner engagement activities including personnel exchanges between the Motorised Infantry units, wargaming exercises, learning doctrine and training course material and plans for combined collective training.

Looking ahead NZ training plan alignment is due to be completed by August and the Australian Army will invite the NZ Army to the ADF doctrine governance boards in September.

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