His Majesty's Armed Forces (Tonga)

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His Majesty's Armed Forces
Coat of arms of the Tonga Defence Services.svg
Coat of arms of His Majesty's Armed Forces
Flag of the Tonga Defence Services.svg
Flag of the Armed Forces
MottoTerra Marique ("Land and Sea")  (Latin)
Service branches Tongan Land Component
Maritime Force
Tongan Air Wing
Tongan Training Command
Tongan Support Unit
HeadquartersVilai Barracks, Nuku'alofa
Commander-in-Chief HM King Tupou VI
Minister of DefenseLord Ma'afu
Chief of Defense Staff (CDS)Brigadier General Lord Fielakepa
Military age18
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.)
Active personnel500 [1]
Percent of GDP0.9% 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 defence co-operation agreements with Australia, the United States, China, India and New Zealand. The co-operation aims at capacity development through training of HMAF personnel in leadership, academic and trades while support for infrastructure development is another part of the security co-operation.

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.


TDF during the Italian capitulation parade. Tonga-Italian Capitulation Parade.jpg
TDF during the Italian capitulation parade.

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

The Tonga Defence Service (TDS) came into existence at the beginning of World War II in 1939. In 1943, New Zealand helped train two Tongan contingents of two thousand personnel who fought in the Solomon Islands Campaign. [2] 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 re-formed in 1946. [2]

Former Prime Minister Prince Lavaka Ata 'Ulukalala (now King Tupou VI) joined the naval arm of the Tonga Defence Service in 1982 and became Lieutenant-Commander of the defence 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 forty-five personnel contingent of the TDS served in the Solomon Islands. A third contingent was sent in July 2005. [2] This contingent consisted of thirty-three 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 personnel for the Multinational force in Iraq. Support arrangements were finalised in May 2004. Forty-five Royal Tongan Marines, led by the Chief of Defence of the Tonga Defence 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 stabilisation 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. [3]

Tongan troops training in England with the Royal Air Force Regiment in 2010. Tongan Soldier During Pre-Afghanistan Training Exercise.jpg
Tongan troops training in England with the Royal Air Force Regiment in 2010.

In 2006, TDS soldiers, in co-operation with local police, were deployed to deal with the Nuku'alofa riots. [2]

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. [4] 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. [5] [6] During the September 2012 Camp Bastion raid Tonga troops were in perimeter guard towers without any night-vision devices. [7] On September 2013, Tonga Defence Services were officially renamed into His Majesty's Armed Forces (HMAF). [8] In April 2014, the Royal Tongan Marines ended their mission supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. [6]


The main elements of HMAF are: [9] [10]

Tongan Maritime Force (Tongan Navy)

The Tongan patrol boat VOEA Savea (P203) in Sydney Harbour, 2013. VOEA Savea (P203) - RAN-IFR 2013 D3 74.jpg
The Tongan patrol boat VOEA Savea (P203) in Sydney Harbour, 2013.

The Maritime Force is equipped with three Pacific-class patrol boats, a tanker, a Landing Craft Mechanised and a motor boat that is the royal yacht. [11] Tongan Maritime Force performs patrol missions, occasionally dealing with border violations, at the Minerva Reef and Tonga’s restricted fishing zones. [2]

Royal Tongan Marines

The Royal Tongan Marine Infantry is organised as a single battalion with a HQ and three Light Infantry Companies.

Tongan Royal Guards

The Tongan Royal Guards are a company size unit that are responsible for the security of His Majesty. The Royal Guard maintains a musical unit known as the Tonga Royal Corps of Musicians that serves as a military band for different occasions.

Tongan 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. [12] The current position of the HMAF air wing is unclear but both aircraft have not been active.

A Beechcraft G18S similar to the one operated by the TDS Air Wing Beech18-N45CF-990.jpg
A Beechcraft G18S similar to the one operated by the TDS Air Wing

Retired Aircraft

International Defence Organisations

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

Tonga has an agreement to share "disaster response knowledge" with the United States Nevada National Guard. [13]


The ranks used by His Majesty's Armed Forces are similar to those used in other Commonwealth armed forces. [14] [15]

Rank groupNational rankGeneral/flag officersField/senior officersJunior officersOfficer cadet
Flag of Tonga.svg Tongan Land Component
No equivalent
Tonga-Army-OF-6.svg Tonga-Army-OF-5.svg Tonga-Army-OF-4.svg Tonga-Army-OF-3.svg Tonga-Army-OF-2.svg Tonga-Army-OF-1b.svg Tonga-Army-OF-1a.svg
Brigadier General Colonel Lieutenant Colonel Major Captain Lieutenant Ensign Officer Cadet
Naval Ensign of Tonga.svg  Tongan Maritime Force
No equivalent
Generic-Navy-O8.svg Generic-Navy-O7.svg Generic-Navy-O5.svg Generic-Navy-O4.svg Generic-Navy-O3.svg Generic-Navy-O1.svg British Royal Navy OF-1a.svg
Commodore Captain Commander Lieutenant commander Lieutenant Sub lieutenant Midshipman
Rank groupNational rankGeneral/flag officersField/senior officersJunior officersOfficer cadet
Rank groupSenior NCOsJunior NCOsEnlisted
Flag of Tonga.svg Tongan Land Component
Tonga-Army-OR-9.svg Tonga-Army-OR-8.svg Tonga-Army-OR-7.svg Tonga-Army-OR-6.svg
Tonga-Army-OR-4.svg Tonga-Army-OR-3.svg No insignia
Warrant officer class 1 Warrant officer class 2 Staff sergeant Sergeant Corporal Lance corporal Private
(or equivalent) [note 1]
Naval Ensign of Tonga.svg  Tongan Maritime Force
Tonga-Army-OR-9.svg Tonga-Army-OR-8.svg Tonga Navy OR-7.svg Tonga Navy OR-6.svg Tonga Navy OR-4.svg Tonga Navy OR-3.svg No insignia
Warrant officer class 1 Warrant officer class 2 Staff sergeant Sergeant Corporal Lance corporal Private

List of commanders

Commanders of the Tongan Defence Services

Chiefs of the Defence Staff of the HMAF

Equipment of the Tongan Defence Service

Small arms

Webley Revolver Webley IMG 6789.jpg Flag of the United Kingdom.svg UK Revolver 9×20mm [19]
Bolt-action rifles
SMLE Mk IV Short Magazine Lee-Enfield Mk 1 (1903) - UK - cal 303 British - Armemuseum.jpg Flag of the United Kingdom.svg UK Bolt-action rifle .303 Acquired from New Zealand; many remain unissued and in storage. [19]
Assault rifles
FN FNC FNC IMG 1527.jpg Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Belgium Assault rifle 5.56×45mm Standard service rifle of Tonga. [19]
IMI Galil Galil.jpg Flag of Israel.svg Israel Assault rifle 5.56×45mm Donated by Israel in 1988. [19]
M4A1 M4 PEO Soldier.jpg Flag of the United States.svg USA Carbine rifle 5.56×45mm M4A1s sold as a 2008 Foreign Military Sales package. [20]
M16A2 M16 Variants.jpg Flag of the United States.svg USA Assault rifle 5.56×45mm About twenty-five imported in 1994. [19] A second order for three hundred was cancelled. [19]
Machine guns
Bren machine gun Bren1.jpg Flag of the United Kingdom.svg UK Light machine gun .303 [19]
Vickers machine gun Vickers Machine Gun YORCM CA78ac.JPG Flag of the United Kingdom.svg UK Medium machine gun .303 At least two; likely in unserviceable condition. [19]


Wheeled vehicles
Unimog U1700 Australian Army Unimog truck with digital camouflage.JPG Flag of Australia (converted).svg Australia Military truck FiveFive gifted by Australia in 2018. [21]

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  1. The lowest rank in the Tongan Royal Guards is that of Guardsman, which ranks higher than Private in the other services.