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The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is the military organisation responsible for the defence of Australia. It consists of the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Army, the Royal Australian Air Force and a number of 'tri-service' units.

During the first decades of the 20th century, the Australian Government established three separate armed services. Each service had an independent chain of command. In 1976, the government made a strategic change and established the ADF to place the services under a single headquarters. Over time, the degree of integration has increased and tri-service headquarters, logistics and training institutions have supplanted many single-service establishments.

The ADF is technologically sophisticated but relatively small. Although the ADF's 53,000 full-time active-duty personnel and 20,000 reservists make it the largest military in Oceania, it is much smaller than most Asian militaries and suffers from shortages in some categories of skilled personnel. Nonetheless, the ADF is able to deploy forces in multiple locations outside Australia.


Legal standing

The ADF's legal standing draws on the Executive Government sections of the Australian Constitution. Section 51(vi) gives the Commonwealth Government the power to make laws regarding Australia's defence and defence forces. Section 114 of the Constitution prevents the States from raising armed forces without the permission of the Commonwealth and Section 119 gives the Commonwealth responsibility for defending Australia from invasion and sets out the conditions under which the government can deploy the defence force domestically.

Section 68 of the Constitution sets out the ADF's command arrangements. The Section states that "the command in chief of the naval and military forces of the Commonwealth is vested in the Governor-General as the Queen's representative." The Constitution does not mention the Air Force as aircraft had not been invented when it was written. Subsequent legislation places the Air Force under the same command structure.

In practice, the Governor General does not play an active part in the ADF's command structure and the elected Australian Government controls the ADF. The Minister for Defence and several subordinate ministers exercise this control. The Minister acts on most matters alone, though the National Security Committee of Cabinet considers important matters. The Minister then advises the Governor-General who acts as advised in the normal form of executive government.

Current priorities

In 2000, the Australian Government developed a white paper to guide all aspects of its defence policy. The White Paper sets out and explains the ADF's priorities. The paper states that the ADF has three priorities. The first of these priorities is to maintain the capability to defend Australian territory from any credible attack, without relying on help from the combat forces of any other country. The second priority is to contribute to the security of Australia's immediate neighbourhood through working with neighbouring countries and participating in United Nations-sanctioned peacekeeping operations. The third priority for the ADF is to contribute to international coalitions of forces outside of Australia's immediate neighbourhood where Australian interests are engaged. The ADF is also responsible for contributing to coastal surveillance and responding to emergencies, including natural disasters.

Australia's National Security. A Defence Update 2007 reviewed national security policies. This document states that "because of the increasing complexity of the international security environment, Australia must prepare for a range of possible events, both close to home and further afield, with lessened forewarning of crises.". To meet these events it is argued that the ADF must be capable of acting independently within Australia's region to deter or defeat threats to Australia's territory and interests. This includes possessing a capability to conduct military operations at short notice. The document also states that the ADF must be able to make a significant contribution to international coalition operations outside Australia's region. The ADF is not expected to be capable of acting independently outside this region, however.

The Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030 white paper was released in May 2009 by the MoD under Fitzgibbon. It laid out a plan for an enlarged navy to allow Australia to conduct independent military operations. The changes included a doubling of the submarine force to 12 boats of greater capability than the Collins, replacing the Anzacs with a more capable frigate class and other improvements for offshore maritime warfare. The paper also concluded that 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters would be needed.


Formation of the Australian Defence Force

Australia has maintained military forces since federation as a nation in January 1901. Upon Federation, the Australian Government established the Australian Army and Commonwealth Naval Force. In 1909, the Government established the Royal Australian Navy, which absorbed the Commonwealth Naval Force. The Army established the Australian Flying Corps in 1912 although this separated to form the Royal Australian Air Force in 1921. The services were not linked by a single chain of command, as they each reported to their own separate Minister and had separate administrative arrangements. The three services saw action around the world during World War I and World War II.

The importance of 'joint' warfare was made clear to the Australian Military during World War II when Australian naval, ground and air units frequently served as part of single commands. Following the war, several senior officers lobbied for the appointment of a commander in chief of the three services. The government rejected this proposal and the three services remained fully independent. The absence of a central authority resulted in poor coordination between the services with each service organising and operating on the basis of a different military doctrine.

The need for an integrated command structured received more emphasis during the Australian military's experiences in the Vietnam War. In 1973, the Secretary of the Department of Defence, Arthur Tange, submitted a report to the Government that recommended the unification of the separate departments supporting each service into a single Department of Defence and the creation of the post of Chief of the Defence Force Staff. The government accepted these recommendations and the Australian Defence Force was established on 9 February 1976.

Defence of Australia era

Australian soldiers lead a column of American troops during Exercise Kangaroo '89, which was held in northern Australia.
Until the 1970s, Australia's military strategy centred on the concept of 'forward defence', in which the role of the Australian military was to cooperate with Allied forces to counter threats in Australia's region. In 1969, when the United States began the Guam Doctrine and the British withdrew 'east of Suez', Australia developed a defence policy emphasising self-reliance of the Australian continent. This policy was the Defence of Australia Policy. Under DOA, the focus of Australian defence planning was to protect Australia's northern maritime approaches (the 'air-sea gap') against enemy attack. In line with this goal, the ADF was restructured to increase its ability to strike at enemy forces from Australian bases and to counter raids on continental Australia. The ADF achieved this by increasing the capabilities of the RAN and RAAF and relocating regular Army units to northern Australia.

At this time, the ADF had no military units on operational deployment outside Australia. In 1987, the ADF made its first operational deployment as part of Operation Morris Dance, in which several warships and a rifle company deployed to the waters off Fijimarker in response to the 1987 Fijian coups d'état. While broadly successful, this deployment highlighted the need for the ADF to improve its capability to rapidly respond to unforeseen events.

Since the late 1980s, the Government has increasingly called upon the ADF to contribute forces to peacekeeping missions around the world. While most of these deployments involved only small numbers of specialists, several led to the deployment of hundreds of personnel. Large peacekeeping deployments were made to Namibiamarker in early 1989, Cambodiamarker between 1992 and 1993, Somalia in 1993, Rwandamarker between 1994 and 1995 and Bougainvillemarker in 1994 and from 1997 onwards.

The Australian contribution to the 1991 Gulf War was the first time Australian personnel were deployed to an active war zone since the establishment of the ADF. Although the warships and clearance diving team deployed to the Persian Gulfmarker did not see combat, the deployment tested the ADF's capabilities and command structure. Following the war the Navy regularly deployed a frigate to the Persian Gulf or Red Sea to enforce the trade sanctions imposed on Iraq.

East Timor and after

In 1996, John Howard led the Liberal Party's election campaign and became Prime Minister. Subsequently, there were significant reforms to the ADF's force structure and role. The new government's defence strategy placed less emphasis on defending Australia from direct attack and greater emphasis on working in cooperation with regional states and Australia's allies to manage potential security threats. In line with this new focus, the ADF's force structure changed in an attempt to increase the proportion of combat units to support units and to improve the ADF's combat effectiveness.

The ADF's experiences during the deployment to East Timor in 1999 led to significant changes in Australia's defence policies and to an enhancement of the ADF's ability to conduct operations outside Australia. This successful deployment was the first time a large Australian military force had operated outside of Australia since the Vietnam War and revealed shortcomings in the ADF's ability to mount and sustain such operations.

In 2000, the Government released a new Defence White Paper, Defence 2000 - Our Future Defence Force that placed a greater emphasis on preparing the ADF for overseas deployments. The Government committed to improve the ADF's capabilities by improving the readiness and equipment of ADF units, expanding the ADF and increasing real Defence expenditure by 3% per year. In 2003 and 2005, the Defence Updates emphasised this focus on expeditionary operations and the result has been an expansion and modernisation of the ADF.

Since 2000, the ADF's expanded force structure and deployment capabilities have been put to the test on a number of occasions. Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Australia committed a special forces task group and an air-to-air refuelling aircraft to operations in Afghanistanmarker, and naval warships to the Persian Gulfmarker as Operation Slipper. In 2003, approximately 2000 ADF personnel, including a special forces task group, three warships and 14 F/A-18 Hornet aircraft, took part in the invasion of Iraq.

Later in 2003, elements of all three services deployed to the Solomon Islandsmarker as part of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands. In late 2004, over 1000 ADF personnel deployed to Indonesia in Operation Sumatra Assist following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquakemarker. In May 2006, approximately 2000 ADF personnel deployed to East Timormarker in Operation Astute following unrest between elements of the Timor Leste Defence Force.

Current operations

In September 2008 around 3,500 Australian Defence Force personnel were deployed on overseas operations. An additional 450 to 500 personnel were also deployed on domestic maritime security tasks. While these deployments have placed pressure on some elements of the military, and particularly the Army, the ADF is not currently 'overstretched'.

The ADF currently has one large scale deployment in the Middle East. The ADF's contribution to the international coalition against terrorism in Afghanistanmarker is the largest ADF deployment, with 1,550 personnel being deployed to the country and a further 830 personnel deployed across the Middle East in support of Operation Slipper. About 100 personnel are also deployed to or near Iraqmarker in Operation Catalyst protecting the Australian Embassy in Baghdadmarker. The ADF also maintains three small contributions totalling 52 personnel to peacekeeping operations in the Middle East and Africa.

ADF units are currently deployed on two operations in Australia's immediate neighbourhood. Approximately 750 personnel, most of whom form part of the joint Australia-New Zealand International Security Force, are deployed to East Timormarker on peacekeeping duties as part of Operation Astute. A rifle company group of 140 personnel is also deployed in the Solomon Islands as the ADF's contribution to the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands.

Future trends

Australia's changing security environment will lead to new demands being placed on the Australian Defence Force. Although it is not expected that Australia will face any threat of direct attack, terrorist groups and tensions between nations in East Asia pose threats to Australian security. The unstable governments in many South Pacific countries may lead to some of these countries becoming failed states in the future. Such failed states may require military-led interventions to restore civil government.

Australian demographic trends will put pressure on the ADF in the future. Excluding other factors, the aging of the Australian population will result in smaller numbers of potential recruits entering the Australian labour market each year. Some predictions are that population aging will result in slower economic growth and increased government expenditure on pensions and health programs. As a result of these trends, the aging of Australia's population may worsen the ADF's manpower situation and may force the Government to reallocate some of the Defence budget. In addition, the current labour shortages across much of the Australian economy may frustrate the ADF's expansion plans and delay the introduction of new equipment.

The increasing cost of defence equipment also poses a challenge to the ADF. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute estimates that the cost of purchasing and operating the equipment in the Defence Capability Plan may exceed the projected Defence Budget. If additional resources are not made available to correct this funding shortfall the government may be forced to reduce the ADF's size.

The ADF has developed strategies to respond to Australia's changing strategic environment and population base. These strategies include expanding the ADF and introducing new equipment in order to increase Australia's strategic weight. To maintain Australia's qualitative lead over neighbouring states the ADF intends to introduce new technologies and maintain the high quality of Australian military training. The ADF is also seeking to develop and implement improved military tactics based upon the integration of technology and better cooperation between the services.

Current structure

The Australian Defence Force and Australian Department of Defence together make up the Australian Defence Organisation (ADO). A diarchy of the Chief of the Defence Force and the Secretary of Defence administers the ADO. The ADF is the military component of the ADO and consists of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), the Australian Army and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

The Department of Defence is staffed by both civilian and military personnel and includes agencies such as the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO), the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) and the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO). The DMO purchases and maintains defence equipment. The DSTO provides science and technology support to the defence forces.

Command arrangements

The Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) is the most senior appointment in the ADF. The CDF commands the ADF under the direction of the Minister of Defence and is notionally the equal of the Secretary of Defence, the most senior public servant in the Department of Defence. The CDF is the only four-star officer in the ADF and is a General, Admiral or Air Chief Marshal. Hugh White, a prominent academic and former Deputy Secretary in the Department of Defence, has criticised the ADF's current command structure. White argues that the Minister plays too large a role in military decision-making and does not provide the CDF and Secretary of Defence with necessary and sufficient authority to manage the ADO effectively.

Under the current ADF command structure the day-to-day management of the ADF is distinct from the command of military operations. The services are administered through the Australian Defence Organisation, with the head of each service (the Chief of Navy, Chief of Army and Chief of Air Force) and the service headquarters being responsible for raising, training and sustaining combat forces. The Chiefs are also the Government's principal advisor on matters concerning the responsibilities of their service.

While the individual members of each service ultimately report to their service's Chief, the Chiefs do not control military operations. Control of ADF operations is exercised through a formal command chain headed by the Chief of Joint Operations (CJOPS), who reports to the CDF. As part of this structure each service is organised into an administrative headquarters (Navy, Army and Air Force headquarters) which supports the service Chief and an operational command (Fleet Headquarters, Land Command and Air Command) which report to the respective service Chief but are responsive to CJOPS.

The Navy and Army also have a training command which reports to the head of the respective service (the RAAF's Training Group has formed part of Air Command since 2006). Several 'joint' operational task forces also report to CJOPS. In practice, when ADF units deploy on exercises or operational deployments they are temporarily re-assigned from their respective service to the relevant operational headquarters.

Other countries with integrated military command structures comparable to Australia's include Canada (Canadian Forces), Britain (British Armed Forces) and New Zealand (New Zealand Defence Force).

Joint combat forces

Operational command of the ADF is exercised by Headquarters Joint Operations Commandmarker (HQJOC), which is located in Canberra. This command was initially established as Headquarters Australian Theatre in 1997 and was re-designated in 2004. The Vice-Chief of Defence Force has the additional responsibility of Chief of Joint Operations, directing the JOC.

The ADF has a number of permanent joint operational commands responsible to the Vice-Chief of Defence Force. Joint Logistics Command is responsible for managing the ADF's logistics, which it achieves through regional Joint Logistics units and contracts with private companies. Special Operations Command currently draws almost exclusively from the Army and is responsible for all of Australia's special forces assets.

Northern Command, headquartered in Darwinmarker, is responsible for operations in Northern Australia and has elements of the three services under its command at all times. The ADF also has two Deployable Joint Force Headquarters; one is based on the Army's 1st Division headquarters and the other on the Navy's Commodore Flotillas headquarters. The designation of these headquarters are DJFHQ (Land) and DJFHQ (Maritime), respectively. Temporary joint task force headquarters are also often formed during deployments and exercises.

Royal Australian Navy

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is the naval branch of the Australian Defence Force. The RAN operates over 50 vessels, including frigates, submarines, patrol boats and auxiliary ships. The RAN is one of the most modern navies in the Pacific and is responsible for defending Australian waters and undertaking operations in distant locations.

There are two parts to the RAN's structure. One is an operational command, Fleet Headquarters, and the other is a support command, Navy Systems Command. The Navy's assets are administered by seven Force Element Groups (FEGs), which report to the Commander Australian Fleet. The seven FEGs are: Australian Navy Surface Combatants Force, Amphibious Warfare Forces along with the Afloat Support Force, Naval Aviation Force, Australian Navy Submarine Force, Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Forces, Australian Navy Patrol Boat Force and the Australian Navy Hydrographic Force.

Australian Army

The Australian Army's structure in 2009
The Australian Army is Australia's military land force. While the Australian Army is principally a light infantry force, it is currently being 'hardened and networked' and expanded to enable it to conduct higher-intensity operations.

Land Command is the authority responsible for the operations of Australian land forces and has its headquarters in Sydneymarker. The organisation of the Australian Army's combat forces is as follows. A Mechanised Brigade 1 Brigade , a Light Infantry Brigade 3 Brigade, a motorised Brigade 7 Brigade, six Army Reserve brigades, an aviation brigade and a logistics brigade. The Army's main tactical formations are battlegroups formed around the headquarters of a battalion-sized formation.

The Australian Army is capable of fielding up to nine battlegroups (one armoured, two cavalry, five infantry and one aviation), though it would not be feasible to deploy all nine battlegroups simultaneously. The 'hardened and networked' Army initiative will add two further battlegroups. The six Army Reserve brigades suffer from serious shortfalls in personnel and equipment and are not capable of being deployed as formed units or providing full strength sub-units at short notice.

While the Australian Army has two divisional headquarters, only one (the 1st Division) is deployable as the Deployable Joint Force Headquarters (Land). The Headquarters of the 2nd Division performs administrative functions only and supports the five Army Reserve brigades located outside the state of Queensland. The Australian Army has not deployed a divisional sized formation since 1945 and does not expect to do so in the future.

Royal Australian Air Force

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is the air force branch of the Australian Defence Force. The RAAF has modern combat and transport aircraft and a network of bases in strategic locations across Australia.

Unlike the other services, the RAAF has only a single operational command, RAAF Air Command, which includes the Air Force Training Group. RAAF Air Command is the operational arm of the RAAF and also consists of the Air Combat Group, Air Lift Group, Surveillance and Response Group, Combat Support Group and Aerospace Operational Support Group. Each group consists of a number of wings.

The RAAF has seventeen flying squadrons; four combat squadrons, two maritime patrol squadrons, five transport squadrons, five training squadrons (including three operational conversion unit) and one Airborne Early Warning & Control squadron, which is currently forming. A large number of ground support units support these flying squadrons, including three expeditionary combat support squadrons, three airfield defence squadrons and communications, radar and medical units.

Logistic support

The Australian Defence Force's logistics are managed by the Defence Material Organisation and the Joint Logistics Command. The DMO was created in 2000 by merging the ADF's Support Command Australia with the Department of Defence's Defence Acquisition Organisation and National Support Division. The DMO purchases all forms of equipment and services used by the ADF and is also responsible for maintaining this equipment throughout its life of type.

The DMO is not responsible for directly supplying deployed ADF units; this is the responsibility of the Joint Logistics Command and the single service logistic units. These units include the Navy's Systems Command and replenishment ships, the Army's 17th Combat Service Support Brigade and Combat Service Support Battalions, and the RAAF's Combat Support Group.

The increasing role of the private sector forms an important trend in the ADF's logistics arrangements. During the 1990s many of the ADF's support functions were transferred to the private sector to improve the efficiency with which they were provided. Since these reforms most of the 'garrison' support services at military bases have been provided by private firms. The reforms also led to many of the ADF's logistics units being disbanded or reduced in size.

Private firms have increasingly been contracted to provide critical support to ADF units deployed outside Australia. This support has included transporting equipment and personnel and constructing and supplying bases. The ADF's use of contractors to support military operations is not as extensive as that of the United States and British militaries, however, and there may be scope for further 'outsourcing'.

Military intelligence

The Australian Defence Force's intelligence collection and analysis capabilities include each of the services' intelligence systems and units, two joint civilian-military intelligence gathering agencies and two strategic and operational-level intelligence analysis organisations.

Each of the three services has its own intelligence assets. RAN doctrine states that "all maritime units" contribute to the collection of intelligence and many of the RAN's ships are capable of collecting communications and electronic transmissions. The Collins class submarines are particularly effective in this role. The Army's intelligence units include the 1st Intelligence Battalion, 7th Signals Regiment (Electronic Warfare), three Regional Force Surveillance Units and the Special Air Service Regiment. The RAAF's intelligence assets include the Jindalee Operational Radar Network and other air defence radars, AP-3 Orion and RF-111 aircraft and No. 87 Squadron.

The Defence Intelligence and Security Group within the Department of Defence supports the services. This Group consists of the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation (DIGO), Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) and Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO). The DIGO is responsible for geospatial intelligence and producing maps for the ADF, the DSD is Australia's signals intelligence agency and the DIO is responsible for the analysis of intelligence collected by the other intelligence agencies. The DIO and the Joint Operations Intelligence Centre within Headquarters Joint Operations Command are responsible for analysing the information collected and disseminating this analysis to the relevant sections of the ADF and the Australian Government.


Two members of a RAN boarding team prepare for a training exercise in 2007
The Australian military has been an all-volunteer force since the abolition of conscription in 1972. Both women and men can enlist in the ADF, although there are some restrictions on the positions that women may fill. Recruits must be either Australian citizens or permanent residents eligible for citizenship. The minimum age for recruits is 17 and the retirement age is 60 for permanent personnel and 65 for reservists.

Personnel numbers

In the 2007–2008 financial year the ADF had an average strength of 53,167 permanent (full-time) and 20,340 active reserve (part-time) personnel. In addition there are approxiamately 25,000 inactive members of the Standby Reserve. The Army is the largest service, followed by the RAAF and RAN. In that time, the ADO also employed an average of 15,057 civilian members of the Australian Public Service and 620 professional service providers. Average levels for the financial year were as follows:

Service Permanent Active Reserve Total
Navy 12,935 1,795 14,730
Army 26,611 15,892 42,503
Air Force 13,621 2,653 16,274
Total 53,167 20,340 73,507

The average permanent strengths of the services between 1990 and 2006.

Under current government policies the ADF will expand to 57,000 full time personnel, requiring around 6,500 recruits each year. While ADF membership decreased by 891 personnel between 2003–2004 and 2005–2006, it expanded by 361 personnel over 2006-07. In the 2006–2007 financial year the ADF enlisted 4,955 permanent personnel and 2,893 reservists. These numbers fell short of recruitment targets, representing 84% of the permanent force recruitment target and 89% of the reserve force target. Regardless this represented an overall improvement on the achievements against the targets for the 2006–2007 financial year (84% and 77% respectively), however.

11.2% of ADF personnel left the military during 2006–2007. Figures for 2007–2008 were better with the ADF expanding by 1,663 personnel. Total enlistments included 7,074 permanent personnel, 702 short service Gap Year personnel, and 2,540 reservists. These numbers still fell short of recruitment targets however, representing 77% of the permanent force recruitment target and 93% of the reserve force target. Separation rates were also lower though, with 9.8% of ADF personnel leaving during 2007–2008.

Regardless, the ADF continues to suffer serious shortfalls in some categories of skilled personnel. The Navy and Army are short of medical personnel, engineers, linguists and junior personnel with technical qualifications. The RAAF states that its personnel situation is sound. The strong civilian labour market is one cause of these shortages. The ADF's high operational tempo is another cause, with the disruption frequent deployments cause to family life being a common reason why ADF personnel decide to leave the military.

The Government has introduced new policies to increase recruitment and reduce the ADF's separation rate. These policies include reforms to speed the recruitment process, the relaxation of some minimum standards for recruits and the introduction of retention bonuses for personnel in critical positions and with important skills. The 2007–2008 Commonwealth Budget also provided increased funding to advertise the ADF as an employment option and attract apprentices to the services. In June 2007 Air Chief Marshal Houston told a Senate inquiry that these reforms appear to have increased the number of recruits joining the ADF. The increased enlistments have caused in some difficulties, however, with the Army Recruit Training Centre being too small to accommodate the larger numbers of recruits.


Individual training of Australian servicemen and women is generally provided by the services in their own training institutions. Each service has its own training organisation which manages this individual training. Where possible, however, individual training is increasingly being provided through tri-service schools.

Military academies include HMAS Creswellmarker for the Navy, Royal Military College, Duntroonmarker for the Army, and the Officer Training School - RAAF Base East Salemarker for the Air Force. The Australian Defence Force Academymarker is a Tri-Service university for officer cadets of all services wishing to attain a university degree through the Australian Defence Force. Navy recruit training is conducted at HMAS Cerberusmarker, Army recruits are trained at the Army Recruit Training Centre and Air Force recruits at RAAF Base Waggamarker.

Women in the ADF

A member of the Army's 26th Transport Squadron with her truck
Women first served in the Australian military during World War II when each service established a separate female branch. The RAAF was the first service to fully integrate women into operational units, doing so in 1977, with the Army and RAN following in 1979 and 1985 respectively. The ADF initially struggled to integrate women, with integration being driven by changing Australian social values and Government legislation rather than a change in attitudes within the male-dominated military.

The number of positions available to women in the ADF has increased over time. Although servicewomen were initially barred from combat positions, these restrictions began to be lifted in 1990. In 2006 approximately 97% of employment categories in the ADF were available to females as well as males. The only positions which women are currently excluded from are those in which there is a high probability of 'direct combat', which includes all infantry positions and other positions in which there is a high probability of hand to hand combat. As a result, while almost all positions in the Navy and Air Force are open to women, women are excluded from a high proportion of Army positions.

Despite the expansion in the number of positions available to women, there has been only limited growth in the percentage of female permanent defence personnel. In the 1989–1990 financial year women filled 11.4% of permanent ADF positions. In the 2005–2006 financial year women occupied 13.3% of permanent positions and 15.6% of reserve positions. During the same period the proportion of civilian positions filled by women in the Australian Defence Organisation increased from 30.8% to 40.3%. The percentage of female members of the Australian labour force increased from approximately 41% to 45% between June 1989 and June 2006. In 2008, the defence minister Fitzgibbon has instructed the ADF to place a greater emphasis on recruiting women and addressing barriers to women being promoted to senior roles.

Defence expenditure and procurement

Australian defence expenditure between 1989–90 and 2006–2007 in constant 2004–2005 dollars.
The Australian Government allocated to the Australian Defence Organisation in the 2007–2008 financial year. This level of expenditure is equivalent to approximately 2.0% of Australian Gross Domestic Product and 9.3% of the Government's planned expenditure over the 2007–2008 financial year. In the 2006–07 budget, the Government announced that it would continue to increase real Defence spending by at least 3% each year until 2015–2016. The Australian Labor Party promised during the 2007 Federal election campaign to maintain defence spending if elected to office, which occurred.

In relative terms, Australia's defence expenditure as a proportion of GDP is greater than that of most developed Western nations, but is smaller than the proportion allocated to defence by Australia's larger neighbours. Australia's defence spending ranked among the countries of the world as an absolute amount is the 13th highest. However, as Australia's GDP is larger than those of its neighbours, Australia actually spends more on Defence in dollar terms.

The 2006–16 Defence Capability Plan (DCP) identifies the ADF's procurement needs over the next nine years. The projects in the DCP had a total value of A$51 billion at the time the Plan was published.

The largest projects that the DCP sets out are the replacement of the RAAF's combat aircraft (almost certainly with up to 100 F-35 Lightning II aircraft—the purchase of which will be the most expensive acquisition program ever undertaken by Defence.), the air warfare destroyer project, the replacement of the RAAF's maritime patrol aircraft, the replacement of the RAN's anti-submarine helicopters, the replacement of the ADF's entire fleet of field vehicles and the purchase of two large amphibious ships. Other significant purchases that the DCP sets out include the purchase of MRH-90 transport helicopters for the Army and Navy and M1A1 Abrams tanks to reequip the Army's only armoured regiment.

The ADF has also been funded to purchase equipment that the DCP will not provide. These include the acquisition of 24 F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter aircraft, four C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft and the equipment needed to implement the 'Hardened and Networked Army' initiative. The ADF has also commenced planning for the submarines which will replace the Collins class boats in the mid 2020s.

Current equipment

While the Australian Defence Force seeks to be a high-technology force, much of its equipment is approaching obsolescence and is scheduled to be replaced or upgraded in the near future. Australia does not possess weapons of mass destruction and has ratified the Biological Weapons Convention, Chemical Weapons Convention and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Although most of the ADF's weapons are only used by single service, there is an increasing emphasis on commonality. The three services use the same small arms and the FN Herstal 35 is the ADF's standard hand gun, the F88 Austeyr the standard rifle, the F89 Minimi the standard light support weapon, the FN Herstal MAG-58 the standard light machine gun and the Browning M2HB the standard heavy machine gun.

The Royal Australian Navy operates a large number of ships and submarines. The Navy's 12 frigates are its most capable surface combatants. The four Adelaide class frigates (which are currently being upgraded) provide the RAN's surface offensive capability, while the eight Anzac class frigates are general purpose escorts. The RAN's submarine force has six Collins class submarines, which currently rank among the most effective conventional submarines in the world. There are currently 14 Armidale class patrol boats for border security and fisheries patrol duties in Australia's northern waters. The RAN's amphibious force comprises two Kanimbla class Landing Platform Amphibious, the Landing Ship Heavy HMAS Tobruk and six Balikpapan class Landing Craft Heavy. The Navy's minesweeping force operates six Huon class minehunters, two of which are currently operating as patrol boats, and three auxiliary minesweepers. An auxiliary tanker, a fleet replenishment ship, and six survey vessels support these combatants. The Fleet Air Arm has 35 helicopters in service.

An ASLAV leading a column of other Army vehicles
The Australian Army is primarily a light infantry force equipped with equipment which may be carried by individual soldiers. However, the Army's equipment includes a substantial quantity of armoured vehicles and artillery. Moreover, the Army is introducing additional armoured vehicles into service as part of the 'hardened and networked army' initiative. The Army's armoured, mechanised and motorised units are currently equipped with 59 M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks, 700 M113 armoured personnel carriers (of which 431 are to be upgraded), and 257 ASLAV armoured reconnaissance vehicles. 737 Bushmaster Infantry Mobility Vehicles are being introduced into service (including 12 which will be used by the RAAF). The Army's artillery holdings consist of 349 105 mm calibre towed guns, 36 155 mm towed howitzers, 296 81 mm mortars and 30 RBS-70 surface-to-air missiles. Australian Army Aviation is equipped with 91 helicopters, including 14 of the 22 Eurocopter Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopters which have been ordered and two of the 46 new MRH-90 transport helicopters.

The Royal Australian Air Force operates combat, maritime patrol, transport and training aircraft. The combat aircraft force comprises 19 F-111 bombers and 71 F/A-18 Hornet fighters. The maritime patrol force is equipped with 19 recently upgraded AP-3C Orion aircraft. The air transport force operates 24 C-130 Hercules, 14 DHC-4 Caribou and 4 C-17 Globemaster IIIs. The RAAF operates three Bombardier Challenger and two Boeing Business Jet 737 aircraft as VIP transports. Five Airbus KC-30B Multi-Role Tanker Transports will be introduced into service from 2009. The RAAF also operates 67 Pilatus PC-9, 33 Hawk 127 and eight Beechcraft B300 King Air training aircraft. The RAAF has ordered six Boeing 737 AEW&C aircraft with one option which are currently scheduled to first enter service in 2009, but will not be fully operational until 2010. 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets have also been ordered to avoid a capability gap between the retirement of the F-111s in 2010 and the expected arrival of the F-35s in 2013. Twelve of the Super Hornets will be modified during production to allow them to be upgraded to EA-18G Growler standard at a later date.

Current bases

The Australian Defence Force maintains bases in all the states and territories of Australia. While most of the Army's permanent force units are based in northern Australia, the majority of Navy and Air Force units are based near Sydneymarker, Brisbanemarker and Perthmarker. Few ADF bases are currently shared by different services. The only permanent ADF base outside Australia is located at Royal Malaysian Air Force Base Butterworth.

The administrative headquarters of the ADF and the three services is located in Canberramarker alongside the main offices of the Department of Defence and Defence Materiel Organisation and the interim headquarters of Joint Operations Command. JOC and the other operational headquarters will be co-located near Bungendore, New South Walesmarker as part of the Headquarters Joint Operations Command Project.

The Royal Australian Navy has two main bases; Fleet Base Eastmarker in Sydney and Fleet Base Westmarker near Perth. The Navy's operational headquarters, Fleet Headquarters, is located adjacent to Fleet Base East. The majority of the Navy's patrol boats are based at HMAS Coonawarramarker in Darwin, Northern Territorymarker with the remaining patrol boats and the hydrographic fleet located at HMAS Cairnsmarker in Cairns, Queenslandmarker. The Fleet Air Arm is based at HMAS Albatrossmarker near Nowra, New South Walesmarker.

The Australian Army's regular units are concentrated in a small number of bases, most of which are located in Australia's northern states. The Army's operational headquarters, Land Command, is located at Victoria Barracksmarker in Sydney. Most elements of the Army's three regular brigades are based at Robertson Barracks near Darwin, Lavarack Barracksmarker in Townsville, Queenslandmarker and Gallipoli Barracksmarker in Brisbane. The Deployable Joint Force (Land) Headquarters is also located at Gallipoli Barracks. Other important Army bases include the Army Aviation Centremarker near Oakey, Queenslandmarker, Holsworthy Barracksmarker near Sydney, Woodside Barracks near Adelaide, South Australiamarker and Campbell Barracks in Perth. Dozens of Army Reserve depots are located across Australia.

The Royal Australian Air Force maintains a number of air bases, including three which are only occasionally activated. The RAAF's operational headquarters, Air Command, is located at RAAF Base Glenbrookmarker near Sydney. The Air Force's combat aircraft are based at RAAF Base Amberleymarker near Ipswich, Queenslandmarker, RAAF Base Tindalmarker near Katherine, Northern Territorymarker and RAAF Base Williamtownmarker near Newcastle, New South Walesmarker. The RAAF's maritime patrol aircraft are based at RAAF Base Edinburghmarker near Adelaide and most of its transport aircraft are based at RAAF Base Richmondmarker in Sydney. RAAF Base Edinburgh is also home to the control centre for the Jindalee Operational Radar Network. Most of the RAAF's training aircraft are based at RAAF Base Pearcemarker near Perth with the remaining aircraft located at RAAF Base East Salemarker near Sale, Victoriamarker and RAAF Base Williamtown. The RAAF also maintains a network of bases in northern Australia to support operations to Australia's north. These bases include RAAF Base Darwinmarker and RAAF Base Townsvillemarker and three 'bare bases' in Queenslandmarker and Western Australiamarker.

Domestic responsibilities

The Australian Defence Force has a number of domestic responsibilities. In most of these tasks the ADF supports the relevant civilian authorities. These responsibilities are typically undertaken by specialised elements of the ADF, though the services' combat elements can be deployed within Australia in response to major emergencies.

The ADF makes a significant contribution to Australia's domestic maritime security. ADF ships, aircraft and Regional Force Surveillance Units conduct patrols of northern Australia in conjunction with the Australian Customs Service. This operation, which is code-named Operation Resolute, is commanded by the Border Protection Command which is jointly manned by members of the ADF and Customs. Approximately 450 personnel were assigned to Operation Resolute in July 2007.

While the ADF does not have a significant nation-building role, it provides assistance to remote Indigenous Australian communities. Since 1996 the Army has regularly deployed engineer units to assist remote communities. Under this program a single engineer squadron works with one community for several months each year to upgrade the community's infrastructure and provide training. The ADF has also taken part in the intervention in remote Northern Territory Indigenous communities since late June 2007. The ADF provides logistical support to the Northern Territory Emergency Response Task Force and has helped assess the communities' needs.

The ADF shares responsibility for counter-terrorism with civilian law enforcement agencies. Under the Australian National Counter-Terrorism Plan the State and Territory police and emergency services have the primary responsibility for responding to any terrorist incidents on Australian territory. If a terrorist threat or the consequences of an incident are beyond the capacity of civilian authorities to resolve the ADF may be 'called out' to provide support. In order to meet its counter-terrorism responsibilities the ADF maintains two elite Tactical Assault Groups, the Incident Response Regiment, and a company-sized high readiness group in each Army Reserve brigade and the 1st Commando Regiment. While these forces provide a substantial counter-terrorism capability, the ADF does not regard domestic security as being part of its 'core business'.

Foreign defence relations

Australian, British and United States C-17 Globemasters and aircrew in Britain during 2007.

The Australian Defence Force cooperates with militaries around the world. Australia's formal military agreements include the ANZUS Alliance with the United States of America, the Closer Defence Program with New Zealand and the Five Power Defence Arrangements with Malaysiamarker, Singaporemarker, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Australia is currently developing closer security ties with Japan. ADF activities under these agreements include participating in joint planning, intelligence sharing, personnel exchanges, equipment standardisation programs and joint exercises. Australia is also a member of the UKUSA signals intelligence gathering agreement.

Two countries, Singapore and the United States, maintain military facilities in Australia. Two Republic of Singapore Air Force pilot training squadrons are based in Australia; 126 Squadron at the Oakey Army Aviation Centremarker and 130 Squadron at RAAF Base Pearce. The Singapore Army also uses the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area in Queensland for annual large-scale exercises.

Two United States intelligence and communications facilities are located in Australia; the Pine Gap satellite tracking station near Alice Springsmarker and Naval Communication Station Harold E. Holt near Exmouth, Western Australiamarker. Pine Gap is jointly operated by Australian and United States personnel and Naval Communication Station Harold E. Holt has been an exclusively Australian-operated facility since 1999. In early 2007 the Australian Government approved the construction of a new unmanned US communications installation at the Defence Signals Directorate facility near Geraldton, Western Australiamarker. The United States Military also frequently uses Australian exercise areas and these facilities have been upgraded to support joint Australian-United States training.

The ADF provides assistance to militaries in Australia's region through the Defence Cooperation Program. Under this program the ADF provides assistance with training, infrastructure, equipment and logistics and participates in joint exercises with countries in South East Asia and Oceania. The Pacific Patrol Boat Program is the largest Defence Cooperation activity and supports 22 patrol boats operated by twelve South Pacific countries.

A performance audit of the Defence Cooperation Program conducted in 2001 found that while Defence does not adequately monitor the Program's performance, it was "valued highly by participating countries". Australia also directly contributes to the defence of Pacific countries by periodically deploying warships and aircraft to patrol their territorial waters. Under an informal agreement Australia is responsible for the defence of Nauru.

Assessment of capabilities

The Australian Defence Force's capabilities enable it to carry out a range of tasks. The size of the force that the government can deploy differs according to the likelihood of high-intensity combat and the distance from Australia. In overall terms, Dr. Mark Thomson of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute assesses the ADF's size and capability as being typical for a Western nation with Australia's economic and population base.

The ADF has probably the most capable air and naval capabilities in the South-East Asia region. However, the small size of the Army and the age of much of the RAN and RAAF's equipment constrains Australia's ability to make large-scale deployments or engage in high-intensity combat. The ADF's personnel shortages may also limit its ability to quickly conduct new deployments.

The ADF is highly capable of defeating direct attacks on Australia by conventional forces, though such attacks are highly improbable at present. The ADF's intelligence gathering capabilities should enable it to detect any attacking force before it reaches Australia. Once detected, the RAN and RAAF would be able to defeat the attacking force while it was still in Australia's maritime approaches. The Army and RAAF are also capable of defeating small raiding forces once they are detected. The ADF currently maintains sufficient forces to meet its domestic security and counter-terrorism responsibilities.

The ADF does not currently possess the resources that a prolonged large-scale deployment with high-intensity warfare would require. Although the RAN and RAAF are capable of deploying significant numbers of capable ships and aircraft, these forces are neither large nor modern enough to operate independently in a high-threat environment and would typically make up a small part of a larger international coalition force. Due to its relatively small size and lack of firepower the Army's capability for high intensity warfare presents is even more limited than that of the other services.

As a result of these limitations, the ADF is capable of providing only relatively small, but high-quality, 'niche' forces for high intensity warfare. Such forces include the Navy's submarines, the Army's special forces and the RAAF's Orion aircraft. However, the ADF's logistic capabilities are insufficient to independently supply such forces deployed in areas distant from Australia. As a result, the ADF can only contribute forces to high intensity warfare outside of Australia's region when larger coalition partners provide logistical support.

The ADF is highly capable of undertaking peacekeeping operations around the world. The Navy's frigates and transport ships, the Army's light infantry battalions and the RAAF's transport aircraft are well-suited to peacekeeping. The ADF has the capability to undertake peacekeeping and low-intensity warfare operations independently in Australia's region and can sustain such deployments for a lengthy period. It is also capable of leading international peacekeeping forces in the Asia-Pacific region.

Although the ADF's capacity to participate in high-intensity warfare is limited, the Government does not presently require that the military possess such capabilities. The information released in the Defence Annual Report indicates that the ADF consistently meets most of the readiness targets which are set by the Government. The ADF's performance in meeting the Government's requirements improved between 2000–01 and 2005–06, with the majority of these targets being met. The only readiness targets to be consistently missed over this period were those set for the Army Reserve and the Army's logistic support forces.


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