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Australian Army

The Australian Army is Australia's military land force. It is part of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) along with the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. The Army is commanded by the Chief of the Army (CA), who is responsible to the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF).

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.


Australian Government websites state that the Army's mission is to provide a potent, versatile, and updated Army to promote the security of Australia and protect its people. Further, the Army's key doctrine publication, The Fundamentals of Land Warfare, states that "the Army’s mission is to win the land battle".


The history of the Australian Army can be divided into two periods:

  • 1901-47, when limits were set on the size of the Regular Army, the vast majority of peacetime soldiers were in the Reserve Army units of the Australian Citizens Military Force (also known as the CMF or Militia), and Australian Imperial Forces were formed to serve overseas, and
  • post-1947, when a standing peacetime infantry force was formed and the CMF (known as the Army Reserve after 1980) began to decline in importance.

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.

Current deployments

The Australian Army currently has significant forces deployed on four major operations:

  • Operation Catalyst - Australia's commitment to the Coalition forces in Iraq. The army's contribution includes an embassy security detachment which provides security protection and escort for staff at the Australian Embassy in Baghdad, and consists of 100 personnel.
  • Operation Slipper - Australia's commitment to the War on Terror. The army contribution is primarily concentrated in Afghanistan:
  • Operation Astute - Australia's commitment to Timor-Leste. This constitutes the largest overseas deployment of Australian forces, with around 925 troops deployed. These are primarily formed into a single battlegroup:
  • Operation Anode - Australia's commitment to the Regional Assistance Mission Solomon Islands (RAMSI) has changed over the years, with an initial influx of over 2000 troops to one Platoon of Australians, New Zealanders and Pacific Islanders just before the riots of April 2006. The current contribution includes, as at December 2007, an Australian Rifle Company, a New Zealand Platoon, a Pacific Islander Country (PIC) Platoon, plus support elements such as Sigs, Transport, Q-Store, Intelligence and Operations Staff. The Military component of the Operation is commanded by a Lt-Col from Australia.
  • In addition to these, small numbers of personnel are deployed on various peacekeeping operations around the world, including the Multinational Force and Observers and to the United Nations.
  • Operation Mazurka - Australia's commitment to Multinational Force and Observers (MFO). From 1982-1986, the RAAF provided rotary wing aviation support. Since 1994 the Australian Army has maintained a presence within the organisation. Currently 25 personnel rotate twice a year, being employed in key HQ, operations and logistics positions.
  • Operation Paladin - is the Army's longest ongoing operation, where Australian personnel have served since 1956. Operation Paladin is Australia's contribution to the UN Truce Supervision Organisation that was established in 1948 to supervise the truce agreed at the conclusion of the first Arab/Israeli War.

Current organisation

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.

'Hardened and Networked Army'

In 2006, then Australian Minister for Defence, Senator Robert Hill announced that the Australian Army would be restructured and redeveloped in an updated version of the Army’s ‘Hardened Networked Army’ concept. The policy of creating a ‘Hardened and Networked' Army will see a major reorganisation of both the regular Army and Army Reserve. The overriding rationale for this is to bring about "A reduction in singular capabilities that can not be rotated, hence an 'Army of twos'". This will involve the army being organised so that it can deploy a number of battlegroups, consisting of infantry, armour, artillery etc in the correct proportions relevant to each type of mission.

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.

Colours, standards and guidons

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.

Rank and insignia

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).

Current recruiting issues

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
Aircraft Aircraft Origin Type Versions In service Notes
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

Army bases

The Army's operational headquarters, Land Command, is located at Victoria Barracks in Sydney. The Australian Army's three regular brigades are based at Robertson Barracks near Darwin, Lavarack Barracks in Townsville, Queensland and Gallipoli Barracks in Brisbane, Queensland. The Deployable Joint Force Headquarters is also located at Gallipoli Barracks. Other important Army bases include the Army Aviation Centre near Oakey, Queensland, Holsworthy Barracks near Sydney, and Woodside Barracks near Adelaide, South Australia. The SASR is based at Campbell Barracks Swanbourne, a suburb of Perth, Western Australia. Further barracks include Steele barracks in Sydney, Keswick Barracks in Adelaide, and Irwin Barracks at Karrakatta in Perth. Dozens of Army Reserve depots are located across Australia.

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).



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