The Tonga Defense Services (TDS) is the 450-person armed force of Tonga. It is composed of three operational command components, two support elements (logistics and training groups) and police. The force's mission is to assist in maintenance of public order, to patrol coastal waters and fishing zones, and to engage in civic action and national development projects. The main base of operations is the capital, Nukuʻalofa.
The TDS is partially supported by defense cooperation agreements with both Australia and New Zealand, which support the TDS with small in-country detachments of military technicians. The United States military provides training to the TDS and conducts humanitarian civic action projects in Tonga.
The TDS is organized in a unified command system. It consists of three forces, the Regular Force, the Territorial Force and the Active Reserve. The three main component units of the Regular Force are the Land Force, Support TDS, and Navy. The Territorial Force and Reserve Force are under the direct control of the Headquarters, TDS. The Tongan military has 450 soldiers serving, and plans to expand.
The TDS is a member of the following international defense organisations:
The Tonga Defense Force (TDF) 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. 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 TDF was disbanded, but was reactivated in 1946.
Former Prime Minister Prince Lavaka Ata 'Ulukalala 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. 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. As of 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. http://www.centcom.mil/Operations/Coalition/Bulletin/bulletin14.pdf]
The Royal Tongan Marines returned from Iraq in December 2004.
In 2006, TDS soldiers, in cooperation with local police, were deployed to deal with the Nuku'alofa riots.