Now more than 40-years old, the Mercedes-Benz Unimog truck fleet appears to be reaching the end of its service with the New Zealand’s Defence Force (NZDF) following the launch of a market research project to replace the legacy platform, which the country’s Ministry of Defence described as “a workhorse” in a 6 October press release.

“We are asking for information about commercial-off-the-shelf vehicles, which could replace the existing Unimog trucks and military support utes,” Sarah Minson, Deputy Secretary for Capability Delivery stated. A ‘ute’ is verbal shorthand for utility vehicle.

Besides its Unimog vehicles, the NZDF currently operates 194 active HX58 tactical trucks from Rheinmetall-MAN in 2017 and 326 Pinzgauer trucks from BAE Systems in 2004, according to GlobalData intelligence.

A timeline of NZDF land vehicle fleets

Under the 2019 Defence Capability Plan, the New Zealand Government committed to a range of upgrade and development programmes.

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By GlobalData

As part of this evolution, the government established the Garrison and Training Support (GATS) vehicles investment among other development initiatives, which the government allocated an indicative capital cost of NZ$100m-$300m ($59.3m-$178m).

The programme will provide the NZDF with modern military vehicles to fulfil certain domestic requirements – ranging from fire appliance, medical response and aircraft refuelling vehicles.

One contract that marked the country’s modernisation programme was a contract awarded to Hamilton-based Action Manufacturing for a fleet of six medical response vehicles, which were later increased to 12. These are based on the Iveco Daily 4×4 and replace the Unimog medical vehicles.

In 2021, NZDF announced that this replacement programme was overdue, leading the government to set up a two-phase roadmap for completion by 2030. Phase one has just ended this year; it involved replacing most of the specialist vehicles. Phase two, which ends in 2030, will oversee the “progressive replacement of the remainder of the GATS fleet,” including the country’s Unimogs.

Among the vehicles NZDF has replaced so far, it has already sold 22 Light Armoured Vehicles (LAVs) to the Chilean Navy in late April 2022. These vehicles were part of a sale of 75 units the New Zealand Government had originally acquired from General Dynamics Canada in 2003.

Seeking a replacement vehicle

In addition to the standard truck requirements, the market research is asking for information, data and pricing about lower emission vehicles – hybrid or electric.

The ministry also asks for information about vehicles with a high fording depth that could drive through flood waters or broken and disturbed ground.

“The replacement vehicles would be used across New Zealand for a wide range of domestic tasks, including extreme weather and disaster response operations, as well as the transport of personnel and equipment,” Minson added.