WELLINGTON, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- The New Zealand military is to send 55 personnel and a P-3K2 Orion surveillance aircraft to the Middle East to join a multinational effort to fight piracy and drug trafficking, the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) said Wednesday.

The NZDF team would help patrol 3.2 million square miles (8.29 million square km) of international waters to support the United States-led Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) over the next 12 months, Major General Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said in a statement.

"Through this mission we will help protect vital trade routes around the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean and demonstrate once again our government's longstanding commitment to global security," Gall said.

The first rotation of personnel left Tuesday for the Middle East, with the Orion scheduled to leave later this week.

The last NZDF Orion mission supporting the CMF ran for 16 months. The Orion and the supporting detachment conducted 174 maritime surveillance flights involving about 1,400 flying hours by the time the mission finished in December 2015.

The NZDF team helped the CMF locate and intercept vessels attempting to smuggle drugs worth nearly 500 million NZ dollars (365.55 million U.S. dollars).

The CMF is a 31-nation naval partnership to promote maritime security and to prevent terrorism, piracy and the trafficking of people and drugs.