Smart weapons ... New Zealand is playing catchup with its overseas counterparts.
The New Zealand Defence Force wants to spend $NZ600 million creating a cyber army.
The Network Enabled Army initiative would see combat units kitted out with drones and robots as well as sensors that would monitor the location, and possibly even the health and condition, of soldiers and vehicles.
The Defence Force has invited would-be technology suppliers to a briefing day at its Trentham military base, near Wellington in August and hopes to take a business case to the cabinet in October.
Program manager Colonel Phil Collett said the spending would be over 20 years and the Defence Force would only be playing catchup with its overseas counterparts.
Items such as UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones] and robots were "the kinds of things we could be looking at".
At the moment, the army did not have any surveillance or reconnaissance systems that could go in advance of troops and "see over the next hill", he said.
Other key benefits included reducing the risk of "friendly fire" or so-called "blue-on-blue" incidents, and making it easier to find battle casualties, Colonel Collett said.
"The capability gap we have is the ability for troops in the field to send and receive data and to be able to display information on electronic maps. That is a capability that is in fairly widespread use across a lot of other Western nations."
The spending would not all be on new gadgets and would involve updating the army's existing radios.
The Defence Force planned to present ministers with a variety of options which would have different price tags, Colonel Collett said.
These would range from maintaining its existing capability "right through to a sophisticated solution you would love to have but probably couldn't afford to own".
Technologies that let the army monitor the health of soldiers - whether they were under stress and standing or lying - and the condition of vehicles such as personnel carriers "would be great", he said.
"But we have to look at the maturity and affordability of those technologies. I know people are looking down the track at those technologies, but I am not aware whether anyone has implemented those systems yet."
Although the NZ cabinet has not yet approved a Network Enabled Army, the Defence Force has made provision for the spending in its long-term capital plan, Colonel Collett said.
"We are identifying up to potentially $NZ600m over 20 years. A big proportion of that, however, would simply be paying for the replacement of equipment such as radios that we already own."
He hoped there would be opportunities for New Zealand-based technology suppliers.
"To be fair, there is probably not a New Zealand company that could take it on their own," he said.
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