NZ First: More than $20B needed for 'sci-fi' warfare

A Predator drone used in Afghanistan by US forces (Reuters)
A Predator drone used in Afghanistan by US forces (Reuters)

New Zealand First has called on the Government to double its spending on the military, slamming yesterday's Defence Force White Paper as lacking imagination.

The Government yesterday revealed plans to spend $20 billion over the next 15 years on modernising the military, including beefing up its cyber warfare capabilities and replacing aging hardware, such as the Hercules and Orion fleets.

NZ First deputy leader Ron Mark, a former soldier, said it wasn't "all bad".

"There are pieces in there that we would agree with, if we're talking about improving our cyber warfare capability, if we're talking about injecting more money into special force operations and equipping those guys, digitalising the army, improving our intelligence capacity and capability -- those are all good things and no-brainers," he told Paul Henry.

"In modern warfare, we're doing things that people when I served would only ever have imagined in sci-fi movies."

But he says successive Governments have "dropped the ball" on funding and ill-advised purchases and sales -- such as buying 105 LAVs and scrapping of the air strike wing -- leaving the Defence Force only a third as strong as it was in the 1980s.

"We have a history of making bad decisions, very, very bad decisions… We need a massive injection of funds, we need to be up to 2 percent of GDP."

He wants the air strike wing of the air force rebuilt, saying it could easily be paid for if the Government looked at buying from cheaper suppliers such as Korea, instead of buying from the US, or building it right here in New Zealand.

"These things are possible, so don't believe what some of the pessimists would say."

And despite the military's embrace of the digital, Mr Mark is "astonished" there's no mention of drones at all in the white paper.

"UAVs have a place in the air strike role, they have a place in maritime surveillance," he says. "They have an ability to control our vast EEZ off our naval vessels. I'm just disappointed that we didn't stretch our imagination."

The Defence Force confirmed to Newshub that despite not mentioning them in the white paper, it is in fact considering buying drones.