The Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) is the unified armed forces of Papua New Guinea. It originated from the Australian Army land forces of the territory of Papua New Guinea before independence, coming into being in January 1973 and having its antecedents in the Pacific Islands Regiment. At independence it numbered 3,750 all ranks, while another 465 Australian personnel augmented the force to assist in training and technical support. Today the PNGDF is a small force numbering around 2,100 personnel, and consisting of a Land Element, an Air Operations Element and a Maritime Operations Element. It is a joint force tasked with defending Papua New Guinea and its territories against external attack, as well as having secondary functions including national-building and internal security tasks. Defence accounts for up to 4% of government expenditure, while also receiving significant assistance and training support from Australia, New Zealand, the United States and other nations.
The PNGDF Land Element includes two infantry battalions, an engineer battalion, a signal squadron, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit, and a preventive medicine platoon. The Air Operations Element is a small air wing operating several helicopters and light transport aircraft. The Maritime Operations Element consists of four Pacific class patrol boats and two Balikpapan class landing craft. The army is under the direct command of Headquarters PNGDF, while the air force and navy have their own commanding officers. The PNGDF is under the political oversight of the Minister for Defence.
The PNGDF originated from the Australian Army land forces of the Territory of Papua New Guinea before independence, coming into being in January 1973 and having its antecedents in the Pacific Islands Regiment. At independence it numbered 3,750 all ranks, while another 465 Australian personnel augmented the force to assist in training and technical support. Successive attempts to reduce the size of the PNGDF in response to the country's economic problems have provoked fierce resistance; with the army mutinying in March 2001. The government capitulated after 10 days to the mutineers' demands, agreeing not to cut the army's strength. However, in 2002 it was announced that the PNGDF would be reduced from 4,000 to around 2,100 personnel. In early 2004 the government reaffirmed its commitment to implement cuts within the armed forces, with a definitive restructuring expected to take place. Chief of Staff Captain Aloysius Tom Ur told troops in January 2004 that the 2004 strength of 3,000 would be reduced by one-third, and that during 2004, the force's personnel branch would merge with the support branch into a new organisation. Ultimately the reduction-in-size target was reached in 2007.
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