New Zealand's Special Operations Forces Characteristics

New Zealand’s Special Operations Forces have five key characteristics which inform their activities:


Preparedness is underpinned by an anticipatory mindset. It is sustained by structures, resourcing and training which allows New Zealand’s Special Operations Forces to quickly undertake unique tasks.


The quality and motivation of New Zealand’s Special Operations Forces personnel, their breadth of skills, and culture of independence and flexibility combine to create agility. Consequently, New Zealand’s Special Operations Forces can rapidly organise for tailored multi-mission responses that are relatively low cost and low profile. Deployed New Zealand’s Special Operations Forces may be isolated from support or direction, often making quick decisions with strategic implications. They are expected to act on their initiative pursuant to the commander’s intent. They are required to achieve their primary mission and exploit opportunities regardless of obstacles, yet be agile enough to withdraw from situations where risk outweighs the value the higher commander places on the task.


New Zealand’s Special Operations Forces rely on specialised military support capabilities and assets to achieve their missions more than other New Zealand Defence Force combat organisations. They form a joint and networked force which closely operates with the environmental services (Navy, Army, Air Force), other Government and non-Government agencies, as well as allied Special Operations Forces.


New Zealand’s Special Operations Forces offer precise and discriminate options. Combat elements are trained and equipped to exploit joint precision weapons. They specialise in the assault of complex objectives in a legally and politically demanding environment. This involves precise and discriminate engagement under physical and psychological stress. New Zealand’s Special Operations Forces operations are required to comply with current domestic and international law, and oversight is exercised from the highest military and political levels.

Capable of Tasks Worldwide

New Zealand’s Special Operations Forces capabilities provide both domestic and expeditionary responses, where they can be employed as either the force of last resort or first choice. Domestic responses include counter-terrorism and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) response. Expeditionary deployments may include maritime counter-terrorism or missions where New Zealand’s Special Operations Forces preparedness, agility, interoperability and precision, as well as foreign policy utility and cost effectiveness, make them a force of choice.

NZSAS soldiers on patrol
This page was last reviewed on 2 October 2014.