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NZLAV - The Future NZ Army

NZLAV - The Future NZ Army

Today’s acceptance of the eight-wheeled New Zealand Light Armoured Vehicle (NZLAV) is the first driver towards the NZDF vision of a modernised New Zealand Army.

The NZLAV is fast, well armed and well protected. It can travel on tracks and off-road – and can cruise at speeds of up to 100km on the open road.

It is a fundamental move to improve NZ Army capabilities and gives us the flexibility, utility and confidence in an armoured vehicle to help achieve our goals to:

- Defend New Zealand
- Meet our alliance commitments to Australia
- Assist in the maintenance of security in the South Pacific
- Assist in the maintenance of security in the Asia-Pacific
- Contribute to global security and peacekeeping

NZLAV is an excellent multipurpose vehicle for peace support operations and mid-level (intensity) conflicts. It also enables us to securely transport deployed personnel in high-risk situations.

We are proud and enthusiastic about what the NZLAV means for us - enhanced protection, mobility, firepower, interoperability with allies and a well-needed replacement for our outdated M113 Armoured Personnel Carriers and obsolete Scorpion armoured vehicles.

As part of the NZDF we are taking a leading role in improving our nations overall defence capabilities. The NZLAV marks a milestone in the implementation of the Army Continuous Modernisation Plan (see page 7).

We know that future operations are likely to be much more complex and require independent forces to operate out of direct-fire support range of supporting forces. Operating areas are also likely to be interspersed with hostile forces. This means we need much greater control of our zones, and our own fire support resources rather than relying on traditional mutual support from adjacent units.

The increased lethality, accuracy and range of weapon systems available to our potential adversaries also means our focus must be on using the best protection available for our deployed forces.

Over the past decade armies around the world have increasingly looked to re-equip their front line forces with light and mobile equipment to spearhead more rapid reaction interventions. To provide protection and mobility for these operations, they have increasingly turned to the Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV).

General Dynamics Land Systems (Canada) is one of the world’s leading Light Armoured Vehicle manufacturers, serving some of the most demanding military customers in the world. It has supplied variations of the LAVIII to the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Ireland and Denmark.

The Australian Army has an earlier generation LAV (ASLAV) that is used for armoured reconnaissance and surveillance operations (and was successfully deployed to East Timor). However, the LAVIII is said to be a far more efficient transport and fire support vehicle, illustrated by the Canadian Army who conducted extremely successful peacekeeping operations in Eritrea and Bosnia, and are currently undertaking in Afghanistan.

The NZLAV is a version of the latest state-of-the-art Canadian LAVIII, the third generation Light Armoured Vehicle.

Length 7.54m
Width 2.83m (2.95m over mirrors)
Height 2.88m (Turret top)
2.69m (Suspension lowered)
Maximum Speed 109km/hour
Maximum Range 450km
Engine 260kW
Tare Weight 14,791kg
Combat Weight Max of 20,549kg
(Includes all soldiers and crew, add on light armour, obstacle blade, other radios, weapons and ammunition.)
Capacity 10 personnel
(Including the vehicle commander, gunner, driver and 7 troops and their equipment.)

Main armament 25mm stabilised automatic cannon with day, image intensification and thermal image sight
Secondary armament 7.62mm machine gun mounted coaxially to the main Armament
Vehicle Commander 7.62mm machine gun on a flexible mount on top of the turret
8 grenade launchers

- Automatic transmission with 6 forward and 1 reverse gear
- 2-speed transfer case
- 4 limited slip differentials
- Full time 4-wheel drive
- Selective 8-wheel drive
- 8-wheel independent hydro-pneumatic suspension with height control system
- Power Steering
- Power brakes with ABS on rear 3 axles
- Automatically activated crew and engine compartment fire suppression system

A key feature of the NZLAV is it’s combat-proven two man turret. Easy to operate and highly reliable, the system integrates turret drive and controls, sights, and weapons for fire-on-the-move capability. Both commander and gunner have ready access to all turret functions.

The 25mm cannon and two 7.62mm machine guns eliminate the need for separate fire support and infantry mobility vehicles.

If we are faced with high threat situations the NZLAV enables us to fit add-on armour to the vehicle. The base armour on the NZLAV also includes a protective layer called an interior ballistic spall liner, which increases protection for all passengers from being injured by internal shrapnel.
Unlike a tank, the NZLAV does not have a large gun and isn’t designed to fight other tanks. However, it does stop bullets from small arms, fragmentation from larger weapons and provides a level of protection from mines far more ably than a M113 Armoured Personnel Carrier ever could.

The NZLAV can be driven for 40km with all the tyres run-flat on one side and 8km with all eight tyres run flat. It can also be driven even if it has a wheel blown off each side. It is designed to operate over difficult terrain and its central tyre inflation system allows for tyre pressure to be altered while on the move to maximise traction and mobility over different types of surfaces.

Although not an amphibious vehicle, the NZLAV does have the ability to ford rivers up to 1.5 meters deep (amphibious operations need considerable air and naval support, which is beyond New Zealand’s defence capabilities).

We have had a team preparing extensively in Ontario, Canada to train our New Zealand soldiers to operate and maintain the new fleet.

Workshops and hangars have been built at both Burnham and Linton Military Camps, to house and maintain the vehicles. We are currently working to complete on wash-points and driver training areas. In addition, a purpose built NZLAV field firing range in the Waiouru training area was opened on 28 August 2003.

The first batch of NZLAVs arrived in New Zealand on 9 August 2003 and the second batch on 7 September 2003. Deliveries will continue on a bi-monthly basis and we expect the first company group of 14 NZLAVs to be deployment ready by December 2004. The first full battalion group of up to 51 NZLAVs will be ready for overseas deployment by December 2005.

The Transition Training Team (TTT) was established in Waiouru in January 2003 and will conduct the introduction-into-service training for NZLAV crews.

This involves training the TTT instructors who will instruct on the vehicles and also train the acceptance crews who will conduct acceptance testing on each NZLAV. Once the instructor training is complete the training effort will change to training the initial drivers, gunners and crew commanders.

After both NZ Army Battalions’ crews have been trained the TTT will be disbanded and the responsibility for training NZLAV crews will be handed to the Combat School, in Waiouru.

Continual and comprehensive training is essential. Skills required to effectively operate the weapon systems, sights, navigational aids, and all of the other components of NZLAV are very specialised.

Sea transportation is the most effective way to deploy armoured vehicles (a minimum of 14 and a maximum of 51 are likely to be deployed at any one time).

However, should we require it – the NZLAV can be deployed in an RNZAF C130 Hercules. This was a required production specification of the NZLAV that the Canadian Department of Defence conducted trials for by loading LAVIIIs onto C130s.

In addition, the NZLAV is fitted with a Height Management System that lowers the vehicle to air transport height without needing to remove the turret. It then easily re-elevates to normal height following transport.

We do not have enough M113’s to upgrade to provide all our infantry with even the bare minimum mobility and protection. Furthermore, an upgrade of our existing M113’s would require substantial rebuilding of and improvements to a very old vehicle, including a new engine, suspension, transmission, fire control systems, external fuel tank and armour not to mention the need for a turret.

The NZLAV has many advantages over the M113:

- NZLAV has a complete two man turret that is combat-proven – the M113 does not
- NZLAV can reach greater speeds than the M113 and reach a destination faster
- NZLAV doesn’t need as much logistical support – the M113 requires more general maintenance and large vehicles to transport them on the open road
- NZLAV is more fuel-efficient and has lower running costs per km than the M113
- NZLAV is easier to service than the M113 being a wheeled rather than tracked vehicle
- NZLAV is more survivable in heavily mined areas because it is a wheeled vehicle with a v-shaped hull.
- The NZLAV provides improved ride and comfort for the crew and passengers, which equates to improved effectiveness of the soldiers when they reach their destination and dismount from the vehicle.

The NZLAV is not significantly more expensive than other modern armoured wheeled vehicles. The NZLAV project will cost $672 million. This includes project expenses such as infrastructure in Linton and Burnham Military Camps, overseas training, simulators, publications, specialist tools and test equipment, spare parts, add-on armour, field service representatives and ammunition.

Larger armies do have a mixture of Wheeled and Tracked vehicles, however for the New Zealand Army this option would have been too expensive. In addition to deployable battalion vehicles, two pools of training and reinforcement vehicles would have been required.
The NZLAV will be in service for approximately 25 years and will be upgraded as necessary to retain its capabilities to deploy and sustain a battalion group in coalition peace support operations and mid-level conventional conflicts.

We will have a total of 105 NZLAVs - enough vehicles to deploy and sustain one infantry battalion for six to twelve months, while the second infantry battalion can prepare as a replacement. Less than 105 vehicles would mean we could not conduct the required training for this replacement battalion. Of the total 105 NZLAVs, 7 will be fitted with a light obstacle blade and 3 will be specialist recovery vehicles.

In addition to our NZLAV project we have recently invested $120 million for the purchase of new Tactical and Mobile Communications Systems (TMCS) equipment for our Army and our Air Force/ This has already vastly improved NZDF communication capabilities.

To enhance NZ Army protected mobility and direct-fire support in a way that synchronises with Air Force, Navy and Joint Force we have developed the Army Continuous Modernisation Plan.

This is a three-phased strategy:

Army 2005 – Firepower, Mobility and Protection
- Provide protected mobility to the infantry battalions through the motorisation programme (Light Armoured Vehicle – LAV and Light Operational Vehicle – LOV).
- Enhance the direct fire capability of the combat force, through the introduction of a Medium Range Anti-Armour Weapon (MRAAW), Direct Fire Support Weapon (DFSW) Point and Area.
- Improve the communications ability of the Army through the Tactical Mobile Communications System (TMCS) and the Joint Command and Control System (JCCS).

Army 2010 – Integrated Command and Control
- Creation Information Technology (IT) based command and control system to integrate the information flow from ‘sensor’ to ‘shooter’.
- Establishment a basic precision strike capability by replacing the current mortars and artillery pieces with precision capable equipment.
- Enhance the Reconnaissance, Intelligence, Surveillance and Target Acquisition (RISTA) system with target acquisition (TA) focused capabilities.
- Better equip the engineer and combat units with hasty obstacle crossing capabilities.
- Improve the situational awareness capabilities of the combat force through the Reconnaissance Vehicle Project.
- Introduce Combat Service Support (CSS) equipment to support dispersed, mounted operations.

Beyond 2010 – Precision Manoeuvre
- Continue enhancement of the integrated Command, Control and Intelligence (C2I) system.
- Enhance the precision strike capability to maintain compatibility with coalition doctrinal developments.
- Multi-layer RISTA capabilities to gain informational dominance of the battle-space.
- Further replace current mobility, counter mobility and protection equipment of the engineers to enhance force protection capabilities.
- Enhance CSS capabilities to take advantage of IT applications and to further streamline support.

For more information on these and other NZDF upgrades refer to the NZDF Defence Long-Term Development Plan (update June 2003).

The Government’s Defence Policy Framework document issued in June 2002 indicates its support for the implementation of the Defence Long-Term Development Plan.

Government guidance to NZDF, with regard to our nations greatest defence needs have been identified as:

- An upgrade of Army mobility, communications, surveillance, and fire-support capabilities.
- The ability to provide effective air and naval transport capabilities.
- Maintenance of effective maritime surveillance capabilities of the Air Force and Navy within New Zealand EEZ and EEZ’s of Pacific Island States.

The Government has also outlined seven important factors for reshaping the NZDF:

- NZDF must be equipped and trained for combat and peacekeeping. In order to fulfil the key tasks the Government envisages for the NZDF, it must be appropriately equipped and trained for both combat and peace support.

- NZDF must be deployable. Being able to bring forces to bear when they are most needed is dependent on deployability. This is of particular concern to New Zealand. To be able to deploy and sustain our forces, particularly over large distance, requires a flexible and adaptable mix of air and sealift capabilities.

- NZDF must be able to operate along other forces. Exercising bilaterally with Australia and multilaterally through the FPDA builds up the NZDF’s interoperability

- NZDF must be held at appropriate levels of readiness. It is a false economy not to have the NZDF equipped and trained at appropriate levels of readiness.

- NZDF must be sustainable. Deployments may be for long periods and involve rotation of personnel and equipment. NZDF resources will be managed to ensure that commitments can be sustained.

- NZDF must be up-to-date in technology and doctrine. It is essential that the NZDF keep abreast of technological and other changes in military operations, the so-called Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), in order to retain operational effectiveness. The costs these developments pose are a considerable challenge for small countries like New Zealand. The Government believes that a programme of progressively introducing new technology can help meet this challenge, but consideration will also need to be given to retaining a lesser range of capabilities.

- NZDF must be fiscally sustainable. The Government wants to ensure that our defence dollars are spent wisely. We will focus our rebuilding efforts in areas of most urgent need.


Prior to the Scorpion fire support vehicles being removed from service in 1998 the NZ Army had 104 armoured vehicles (made up of 26 Scorpion fire support vehicles and 78 M113 armoured personnel carriers).

New Zealand’s M113 Armoured Personnel Carriers are over 30 years old. They are unreliable and struggle to meet the operational requirements expected of them, as they are thought deficient in speed, firepower and protection.

The NZLAVs axle weight loads are fully compliant with LTSA regulations for use on New Zealand roads.

Predominantly transported by ship, the NZLAV can also be flown in an Air Force C130 Hercules, as we did with four of our M113 Armoured Personnel Carriers to Darwin before being transported by sea to East Timor. Sea is always the best mode to move large numbers of vehicles.

The M113 will remain in service until the NZLAV’s are operational and will then they will be sold.

Although all armoured vehicles can be immobilised the NZLAV represents what is considered to be the best mix of armoured protection and mobility available.

NZ have deployed armoured vehicles before. Most recently, in 1999 we deployed 25 M113’s to East Timor 21 by sea and four in a RNZAF C130 Hercules.


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