His Majesty's Armed Forces (Tonga)

His Majesty's Armed Forces
Coat of arms of His Majesty's Armed Forces
Motto: Terra Marique ("Land and Sea")  (Latin)
Service branches Land Component, Maritime Component, Air Wing, Training Command, Support Unit, HMAF Reserves
Headquarters Vilai Barracks, Nuku'alofa
Commander-in-Chief HM King Tupou VI
Minister of Defense Lord Ma'afu
Chief of Defense Staff(CDS) Brigadier General Lord Fielakepa
Military age 18
Conscription None
Available for
military service
34,254 males, age 16-49 (2010 est.),
32,974 females, age 16-49 (2010 est.)
Fit for
military service
27,404 males, age 16-49 (2010 est.),
28,509 females, age 16-49 (2010 est.)
Reaching military
age annually
1,448 males (2010 est.),
1,392 females (2010 est.)
Percent of GDP 0.9% GDP (2006 est.)

His Majesty's Armed Forces (HMAF) is the military of Tonga. It is composed of three operational components and two support elements (logistics and training groups).

The mission of HMAF is to: Defend the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Tonga.

The HMAF is partially supported by defense cooperation agreements with Australia, United States, China, India and New Zealand. These Security Cooperation aim at capacity development through training of HMAF personnel in leadership, academic and trades while support for infrastructure development is another part of these Security Cooperation.

In recent years, members of HMAF have supported Coalition of the Willing in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, and the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands.


His Majesty's Armed Forces are organized in a unified command system. It consists of three forces; the Regular Force, the Territorial Force, and the Active Reserve Force.


The main elements of HMAF are:[1]

  • His Majesty's Armed Forces HQ
  • Joint Force HQ
  • Tonga Royal Guards
  • Land Force
  • Tonga Navy
  • Training Command
  • Air Wing
  • Support Unit
  • Territorial Forces


The Maritime Force is equipped with three Pacific-class patrol boats, a tanker, a Landing Craft Mechanized and a motor boat that is the royal yacht.[2] Tongan Maritime Force performs patrol missions, occasionally dealing with border violations. Notably at the Minerva Reef and Tonga’s restricted fishing zones.[3]

HMAF Royal Tongan Marines and Tonga Royal Guard

The Royal Tongan Marine Infantry is organized as a single Battalion size group with a HQ and 3 Light Infantry Companies.

The Tonga Royal Guards is a company size unit that is responsible for the security of His Majesty.

HMAF Air Wing

The Air Wing was established in 1996 and operates one Beechcraft G.18S aircraft in the maritime patrol and search and rescue roles, and an American Champion Citabria light trainer.[4] The current position of the HMAF air wing is unclear but both aircraft have not been active for a long time

Retired Aircraft

International Defense Organizations

The HMAF is a member of the following international defense organisations:

  • Pacific Armies Management Seminar (PAMS)
  • Pacific Area Senior Officers Logistics Seminar (PASOLS)
  • Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS)
  • International Hydrographic Organization (IHO)
  • South Pacific Hydrographic Commission (SPHC)
  • NATO Codification, where though Pacific Codification System (PCS), Tonga and Fiji are sponsored by Australia

Tonga has an agreement to share "disaster response knowledge" with the United States Nevada National Guard.[5]

History of Tonga Armed Forces

Tonga participated in World War I, as part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

The Tonga Defense Service (TDS) came into existence at the beginning of World War II in 1939. In 1943 New Zealand helped train two Tongan contingents of about 2000 troops, who saw action in the Solomon Islands.[3] In addition, New Zealand and US troops were stationed on Tongatapu, which became a staging point for shipping.

At the end of World War II, the TDS was disbanded, but was reactivated in 1946.[3]

Former Prime Minister Prince Lavaka Ata 'Ulukalala (now King Tupou VI) joined the naval arm of the Tonga Defense Service in 1982 and became Lieutenant-Commander of the defense force in 1987. From 1990 to 1995 he commanded the PPB VOEA Pangai and his time in charge included peacekeeping operations in Bougainville.

In 2002, TDS soldiers were deployed as part of a multi-national regional peacekeeping force in the Solomon Islands. In July 2004, a 45-member contingent of the TDS served in the Solomon Islands. A third contingent was sent in July 2005.[3] This contingent consisted of 33 TDS troops, and was expected to remain four months.

In March 2003 Military to Military talks began between Tonga and the United States about Tonga providing troops for the Multinational force in Iraq. Support arrangements were finalized in May 2004. 45 Royal Tongan Marines led by the Chief of Defense of the Tonga Defense Services, Colonel Tau'aika 'Uta'atu, departed Tonga on 13 June 2004. From July 2004, the Royal Tonga Marines were augmenting the 1st Marine Expeditionary Forces (MEF) in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq. The Royal Marines supported the 1st Marine Division's security and stabilization mission at Camp Blue Diamond. Tonga first served with the 1st MEF on the Solomon Island during World War II. The Royal Tongan Marines returned from Iraq in December 2004. In December 2008, the Tonga Defence Services ended their mission in the Iraq War and returned home.[6]

In 2006, TDS soldiers, in cooperation with local police, were deployed to deal with the Nuku'alofa riots.[3]

In 2010, Tongan troops began training with the RAF Regiment, in preparation for operations in Afghanistan; the first troops deployed to Afghanistan during February 2011.[7] Tonga's military size was approximately 450 troops, half of which were sent to fight in the War in Afghanistan, serving in Camp Bastion and Camp Leatherneck.[8][9] During the September 2012 Camp Bastion raid Tonga troops were in perimeter guard towers without any night vision devices.[10] On September 2013, Tonga Defence Services were officially renamed into His Majesty's Armed Forces (HMAF).[11] In April 2014, the Royal Tongan Marines ended their mission supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.[9]


NATO code
OF-10OF-9OF-8OF-7OF-6OF-5OF-4OF-3OF-2OF-1OF(D) and student officer
No equivalent
Brigadier General Colonel Lieutenant Colonel Major Captain First Lieutenant Second Lieutenant Officer Cadet
No equivalent No insignia
Warrant Officer Class 1 Warrant Officer Class 2 Staff Sergeant Sergeant Corporal Lance Corporal Private
(or equivalent)

List of commanders

Chief of the Defence Staff of the HMAF

  • Brigadier general Tau'aika 'Uta'atu (2013 - 21 December 2014)[12]
  • Crown Prince Tupoutoʻa ʻUlukalala (21 December 2014 - ?)
  • Brigadier General Lord Fielakepa (? - present)

Equipment of the Tongan Defence Service

Weapon Origin Type Calibre Notes
Webley Revolver[13] United Kingdom Revolver 9×20mm
FN FNC Belgium Assault rifle 5.56×45mm Standard service rifle of Tonga.[13]
M-16A2 United States Assault rifle 5.56×45mm About 25 imported in 1994.[13] A second order for 300 was canceled.[13]
SMLE Mk IV United Kingdom Bolt-action rifle .303 Acquired from New Zealand; many remain unissued and in storage.[13]
IMI Galil Israel Assault rifle 5.56×45mm Donated by Israel in 1988.[13]
Bren machine gun[13] United Kingdom Light machine gun .303
Vickers machine gun United Kingdom Medium machine gun .303 At least 2; likely in unserviceable condition.[13]


  1. "HMAF Organisation". Tonga Ministry of Information & Communications. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  2. Moore, John (1984). Jane's All The World's Fighting Ships. Jane's Publishing. p. 465. ISBN 0710607741.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 "Name Change". Retrieved 4 September 2014.
  4. Flight International, 16–22 November 2004, Directory: World Air Forces (p. 90).
  5. Fournier, Dennis (2014-05). "State begins partnership with Kingdom of Tonga". National Guard. 68 (4). National Guard Association of the United States. p. 39. Retrieved 2014-06-05. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. Susman, Tina (December 5, 2008). "Tonga troops end Iraq mission". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-12-05.
  7. "RAF trains Tongan troops for Afghanistan". Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  8. "RAF Training". Retrieved 4 September 2014.
  9. 1 2 "Return from Afghanistan". Retrieved 4 September 2014.
  10. "British Parliament". Retrieved 4 September 2014.
  11. "HMAF". Retrieved 4 September 2014.
  12. "Brigadier General 'Uta'atu retires from HMAF". Matangi Tonga Online. Vava'u Press. 21 December 2014. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Capie, David (2004). Under the Gun: The Small Arms Challenge in the Pacific. Wellington: Victoria University Press. pp. 68–69. ISBN 978-0864734532.


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