Although Australian soldiers have been involved in a number of minor and major conflicts throughout its history, only in World War II has Australian territory come under direct attack.
The army has been involved in many peacekeeping operations, usually under the auspices of the United Nations. The largest one began in 1999 in East Timor. Other notable operations include peacekeeping on Bougainville and in the Solomon Islands, which are still ongoing to this day. Humanitarian relief after 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake in Aceh Province, Indonesia, Operation Sumatra Assist, ended on 24 March 2005.
The Australian Army is currently organised around two Divisional headquarters. The Deployable Joint Force Headquarters/1st Division has responsibility for the majority of the regular army, while 2nd Division is the main home defence formation, containing Army Reserve units. Only the 1st Division's headquarters is deployable, however, as the 2nd Division's headquarters only performs administrative functions. The Australian Army has not deployed a divisional sized formation since 1945 and does not expect to do so in the future.
Expansion plans announced in 2006 will see the Australian Army expand by 2008, resulting in a primary force that is organised around eight battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment - three of these are to be standard light infantry, two mechanised, and two are to be motorised. The final battalion is a specialised commando unit which is part of Special Operations Command. The Royal Australian Armoured Corps presently has four regular regiments, one of main battle tanks and two light cavalry (formation reconnaissance). The fourth consists of a single squadron and is used on the armoured personnel carrier/light armoured role. These forces, together with the associated combat support (artillery, engineers, signals) and combat service support (logistics, maintenance etc) are based around two deployable brigades, 1 Brigade, which is primarily a mechanised formation, and 3 Brigade, which is a light, air deployable formation. 7 Brigade was an integrated Regular/Reserve formation that would primarily be used in conjunction with DJFHQ were it ever to be deployed overseas. As part of the expansion of the regular army, the two reserve infantry battalions were transferred to 11 Brigade in 2nd Division in 2007. The re-formed 8/9 RAR will be assigned to 7 Brigade to make it the third regular brigade.
When the reorganisation is complete it is planned that the Army will be able to form battlegroups based around the following formations:
By the end of this process in approximately 2015, 1 Brigade will be the army's major mechanised formation. In addition, 1st Division/DJHQ will be reduced to three brigades, with 11 Brigade, a wholly Army Reserve formation, being transferred to the 2nd Division. The armoured units of the Army Reserve in 2nd Division will be restructured, with four becoming pure light cavalry and the fifth being utilised in the armoured lift role.
Infantry, and some other combat units of the Australian Army carry flags called the Queen's colour and the Regimental Colour, known as 'the Colours'. Armoured units carry Guidons - flags smaller than Colours traditionally carried by Cavalry, Lancer, Light Horse and Mounted Infantry units. Artillery units' Guns are considered to be their Colours, and on parade are provided with the same respect. Non-combat units (combat service support corps) do not have Colours, as Colours are battle flags and so are only available to combat units. As a substitute, many have Standards or Banners.
Units awarded battle honours have them emblazoned on their Colours, Standards and Guidons. They are a link to the Unit's past and a memorial to the fallen. Artillery do not have Battle Honours. Their single Honour is "Ubique" which means "Everywhere".
The Army is the guardian of the National Flag and as such, unlike the Royal Australian Air Force, does not have a flag or Colours. The Army, instead, has a banner, known as the Army Banner. To commemorate the centenary of the Army, the Governor General Sir William Deane, presented the Army with a new Banner at a parade in front of the Australian War Memorial on 10 March 2001. The Banner was presented to the Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army, WO1 Peter Rosemond.
The Army banner bears the Australian Coat of Arms on the obverse, with the dates "1901-2001" in gold in the upper hoist. The reverse bears the 'rising sun' badge of the Australian Army, flanked by seven campaign honours on small gold-edged scrolls: South Africa, World War I, World War II, Korea, Malaya-Borneo, South Vietnam, and Peacekeeping. The banner is trimmed with gold fringe, has gold and crimson cords and tassels, and is mounted on a pike with the usual British royal crest finial.
During the 2005-06 financial year the Army had an average strength of 25,241 permanent Personnel and 15,579 reservists.
The ranks of the Australian Army are based on the ranks of the British Army, and carry mostly the same actual insignia. For officers the ranks are identical except for the shoulder title "Australia". The Non-Commissioned Officer insignia are the same up until Warrant Officer ranks, where they are stylised for Australia (e.g. using the Australian, rather than the British coat of arms).
On 24 August 2006 the Prime Minister announced a requirement for an extra 2600 soldiers for the Australian Army. Recent remarks of low morale in the Army, a high desire to leave the armed forces for civilian careers amongst serving soldiers, low unemployment figures for school-leavers and university graduates, as well as general opposition for Australian soldiers serving in Iraq have resulted in the Army falling short of its recruiting expectations. This new campaign, which will call for the raising of two new infantry battalions ready for overseas deployment by 2010, will reportedly cost $A10 billion. The first of these new battalions, to be operational by 2008, will be formed by the de-amalgamation of 5/7 RAR into the reformed 5th Battalion and 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.
Former Prime Minister John Howard cited causes for this requirement as the threat of unstable, possibly terrorist harbouring states in Australia’s immediate region:
I mean look at what happened in East Timor. Look at what happened in the Solomon Islands. Think back a few years to Fiji. Think of Vanuatu. Think of the inherently unstable situation in Papua New Guinea.
Along with this announcement, many claim that a need for more and better equipment is required, possibly meaning an increase in the numbers of M113 APCs, Bushmaster IMV and M1A1 Abrams tanks being ordered. The plan also may result in an overall reduction in the fitness, medical and age restrictions placed on applicants, in order to ‘Modernize’ the restrictions and also assist in boosting numbers. However, these moves have come against opposition within Veteran’s Organisations. Opposition from the Papua New Guinean Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare came on 25 August 2006, saying an expansion of the Australian Army would actually be in response to its forces already deployed in the Middle East, and not for the possibility of threat from its Pacific neighbours.
On 15 October 2006 the Defence minister Brendan Nelson announced that the Army will be implementing a new 'try before you buy' recruitment system, reducing the Initial Minimum Period of Service (IMPS) from four years to one year for enlisted soldiers. Aimed at school leavers, this system is designed to reduce the impact of joining the army for recruits entering the work force, making the option of military service more attractive. This is known as the "ADF Gap Year", playing on the term of "gap" where school-leavers take a year off before going to University to study.
After an extensive multi-million dollar advertising campaign seeking recruits there is now a reversal of the situation with high enlistment numbers (exceeding the governments target by 1004 persons) but due to the lack of available and adequate training facilities and personnel more than 85 percent of applicants wait for between 35 days and 6 months to start their training, resulting in dropouts in recruits during this period. There are plans to create a second recruit-training battalion but that may take years.
|Small arms||F88 Austeyr (service rifle), FN Minimi (support weapon), Browning Hi-Power (sidearm), MAG-58 (general purpose machine gun)|
|Special forces||M4 carbine, Heckler & Koch USP, SR-25|
|Main Battle Tanks||59 M1A1 Abrams A.I.M.|
|Infantry fighting vehicles||257 ASLAV|
|Armoured Personnel Carriers||766 M113 (350 being upgraded to M113AS3/4 standard, balance to be mothballed and used to support upgrade program)|
|Infantry Mobility Vehicles||289 Bushmaster IMVs (693 ordered)|
|Land Rovers||5000 FFRs 5000 GS|
|Artillery||112 L118/L119 Hamel Guns, 120 M2A2 Howitzer, 36 RBS-70 ground to air missile launchers, and 36 M198 Howitzer|
|Radar||ANTPQ-36 Locating RADAR, AMSTAR Ground Surveliance RADAR|
|Beechcraft Super King Air||Utility||B300||3|
|OH-58 Kiowa|| ||OH-58A Scout helicopter||206B||42||Built under licence in Australia by Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. To be replaced by the Eurocopter Tiger.|
|Boeing CH-47 Chinook||Transport helicopter||CH-47D||6|
|Eurocopter Tiger||Attack helicopter||Tiger ARH||9||Total of 22 to be delivered.|
|Sikorsky S-70 Blackhawk||Utility helicopter||S-70A-9||35|
|MRH 90||Utility helicopter||TTH: Tactical Transport Helicopter||2||Two TTH MRH-90 have been accepted by the Defence Materiel Organisation with 34 more on order|
In addition, there is the Maygar Barracks in Broadmeadows (North West of Melbourne, Victoria) and the Simpson Army Barracks in Yallambie (a suburb of Melbourne to the North East of the Central Business District).