Defence force wants unmanned aircraft by mid-2020s

The New Zealand Defence Force wants to have unmanned aircraft, or drones, by the mid-2020s.

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Fast changing technologies like unmanned aircraft are a key focus for new Defence chief Air Marshal Kevin Short. Source: 1 NEWS

As the country remembers the end of World War One 100 years ago, the NZDF is also eyeing the future.

Fast-changing technologies are a key focus for the new Defence Force chief, Air Marshal Kevin Short.

One-hundred years on from the Great War, New Zealand still has a traditional military. 

But technology is set to change the size of our armed forces and how they'll operate in future.  

"The role of the Defence Force and numbers that you need to win - because it is about winning - will change. Technology allows you to fight a conflict differently," Air Marshal Kevin Short told TVNZ1's Q+A.

Unmanned aircraft, or drones, in particular, are something the Defence Force wants by the mid-2020s. 

"Remotely-piloted air systems - I'd rather call it that than drones," Air Marshal Kevin Short said.

Asked if those are on his shopping list, he said, "Absolutely".

Cyber and even space technology are also seen as vital.  

"We have invested in satellite communication systems so we can guarantee that we can pass information to our men and women where ever they might be," he said.

Also critical for Air Marshal Short is the ability to be able to deploy alongside New Zealand's key allies with compatible up-to-date equipment.

But that comes at a big cost to taxpayers, as demonstrated by the Government spending nearly $2.4 billion this year on four P8 Boeing surveillance aircraft.   

"It's always going to be a balance," Mr Short said. 

Meanwhile, when it comes to future troop deployments, he concedes New Zealand's options are somewhat limited.

"We have close to 500 people deployed overseas on different operations. That's sustainable.  Another 100 people deploying - we would have to look at how we could sustain that."

Earlier this year the Government rolled over New Zealand's deployment of 120 troops to Iraq until September next year.