Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Safety for troops on $600m list

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman. Photo / NZPA
Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman. Photo / NZPA

The Defence Force has a $600 million shopping list for technology such as GPS tracking of troops in war zones to reduce friendly fire mishaps, as well as unmanned aircraft and drones.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said money had been set aside in Defence's budget for the technology which would enable our forces to work more closely with other countries' forces and help keep troops safe.

The ministry was preparing advice on what was needed and $600 million was set aside in the long term.

"Rather than have people with paper maps, you have to bring them into the digital age, otherwise our troops will be disadvantaged in the field."

He said he had not seen any proposal which would put New Zealand troops in charge of drones or other unmanned craft conducting lethal strikes, as the United States has used in Afghanistan.

"That is not what this is about. But as technology develops you are likely to have aircraft which are unmanned. But if New Zealand were ever to get that capability, it would be more about gathering intelligence."

He said one example was using unmanned aircraft for fisheries patrols, rather than the Orions.

At the foreign affairs and defence select committee, Chief of the Defence Force Rhys Jones said better technology would keep troops safe and help reduce friendly fire incidents because it would show exactly where people were if they were out of sight.

- NZ Herald

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