2500-strong force deployed in military exercise

The New Zealand Army's High Readiness Task Unit arrives on an Air Force C-130 Hercules at RNZAF Base Woodbourne to take part in Exercise Southern Katipo 2017.

A multinational coalition of 2500 troops from 13 countries, backed by amphibious ships, aircraft and armoured vehicles, has deployed to the South Island as the

New Zealand Defence Force mounts its biggest military exercise, Southern Katipo.

Major General Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, says the NZDF-led force established its presence today at the top of the South Island, which has been recast as the fictional South Pacific country Becara.

“Through several operations in the South Pacific and South-east Asia, the NZDF has demonstrated that it could establish its forces offshore and conduct stability, support and humanitarian operations,” says Major General Gall.

“But we need to keep on testing and evaluating our expeditionary capability so that we are ready to respond before a crisis demands it.”

HMNZS Canterbury moves through The Cut en route to the Port of Nelson during Exercise Southern Katipo 2017.

The exercise covered the whole spectrum of operations in the maritime, land and air domains, from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to evacuation of civilians, delivery of humanitarian aid and maritime patrols, peacekeeping and conventional warfighting, he says.

“We have to keep on enhancing our ability to conduct joint operations involving maritime, land and air assets and to work alongside our international defence partners.”

In the scenario for Southern Katipo unresolved ethnic rivalries between Becara’s Wesso majority and Havo minority explode into a new wave of violence two years after a multinational force led by the NZDF helped restore peace and stability.

Unable to quell the fast-spreading unrest, which has caused large numbers of the population to flee their homes, the government of Becara has again sought international assistance.

New Zealand has come to the aid of its South Pacific neighbour and is leading the multinational Combined Joint Task Force.

Brigadier Mike Shapland, the Land Component Commander, is leading the deployed multinational force for the exercise.

“We know what the mission is and what needs to be done to achieve it but actually carrying out the operation is the real test,” says Brigadier Shapland.

New Zealand Army soldier Private Tamika Taikato (right) records the arrival of troops at Nelson as they disembark from HMNZS Canterbury during Exercise Southern Katipo 2017.

About 500 troops from Australia, Canada, Chile, Fiji, New Caledonia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Tonga, Timor Leste, the United Kingdom and the United States are also taking part in the NZDF’s biennial military exercise.

Hundreds of residents from Westport, Greymouth, Kaikoura and Havelock have also been tapped to play protesters, displaced Becarans and foreign nationals in need of evacuation.

New Zealand agencies supporting the exercise include the New Zealand Customs Service, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand Police, Ministry for Primary Industries, Immigration New Zealand, Ministry of Health and New Zealand Transport Authority.

Two NH90 helicopters of the Royal New Zealand Air Force touch down and disembark New Zealand Army soldiers to secure an area in the town of Ward, as part of Exercise Southern Katipo. 


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