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Operation Astute is an Australian-led military deployment to East Timormarker to quell unrest and return stability in the 2006 East Timor crisis. It is currently headed by Brigadier Bill Sowry, and commenced on 25 May 2006 under the command of Brigadier Michael Slater. The operation was established at the request of East Timor's government, and continues under an understanding reached between Australia, East Timor, and the United Nations, with the United Nations Integrated Mission in East Timor supporting and helping to develop East Timor's police force. Other countries deploying soldiers to East Timor include Malaysiamarker, New Zealandmarker and East Timor's former colonial power Portugalmarker.

Initial tasks

The initial tasks of the operation were to:
  • Allow for the evacuation of foreigners.
  • Restore stability and confine conflict to secured areas.
  • Assess and locate the weapons possessed by conflicting groups.
  • Establish a safe environment for dialogue to resolve the crisis.


A forward deployment of approximately 200, including a commando company from the 4th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regimentmarker, secured an entry point for follow-on forces centred on Dili Airport.

The full deployment consisted of a battalion group of about 1,800 personnel drawn from the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regimentmarker and other Australian and New Zealand Army units. Evacuations were carried out by C-130 Hercules aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force, using RAAF Base Darwinmarker as a forward operating base.

Initial assets deployed included the guided-missile frigate HMAS Adelaide, the replenishment vessel HMAS Success and the amphibious landing/hospital ship HMAS Kanimbla. Landing ships HMAS Tobruk and HMAS Manoora were also sent to East Timor with follow-on forces.

Operation Astute was established at the request of East Timor's government. Troops from former INTERFET nations including mostly from Malaysiamarker, New Zealandmarker and Portugalmarker have augmented the Australian force. Prior to sending troops, each participating government negotiated a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the government of East Timormarker.

Malaysian Army forces began arriving on 26 May, by air.


May 2006

24 May
  • 21:59 (Canberra) Acting Prime Minister of Australia, Peter Costello, announced in a press conference that East Timormarker had requested Australia "send defence forces to East Timor to help in maintaining and re-establishing public order". Australia would send an advance party including the Vice Chief of Defence force to negotiate conditions of the deployment the following morning.

25 May
  • 07:00 (Canberra) Prime Minister of Australia John Howard arrives back in Canberra from Dublin early, though not officially because of the East Timor crisis.
  • 12:30 (Darwin) A RAAF 34SQN Challenger 604 (VIP jet) was tasked to fly the Australian Vice Chief of Defence Force from Canberra to Dilimarker via Darwinmarker, to negotiate the rules of engagement of the Australian operation, and other conditions of deployment. However on arrival in Darwin the Chief of the Defence Force ordered the aircraft to remain in Darwin, due to a dramatic increase in violence in Dili.
  • (Dili) RAAF 37SQN C130J Hercules aircraft arrive at Dilimarker from Darwinmarker with 130 commandos on board, together with 4 Australian Army Black Hawk helicopters. The Vice Chief of Defence Force was also on board the C130, after being unable to fly to Dili on the RAAF VIP jet. Dili Airport is now under Australian military control. However the VCDF is unable to leave the airport due to security concerns.
  • (Dili) HMAS Adelaide arrives in Dili Harbour.
  • 18:43 (Canberra) Prime Minister John Howard announces in a press conference that the deployment will "go ahead without any conditionality" and that 1300 troops would be in place "in a very short order", despite a failure to negotiate conditions of the deployment with the East Timorese Government. He explains waiting for signatures could lead to significant further bloodshed and the East Timorese Government is desperate for Australian troops to arrive.
  • (Darwin) The Royal Australian Air Force commence transporting troops to Dili. A 33SQN Boeing 707 ferries troops between Townsvillemarker and Darwinmarker, whilst 36SQN C-130Hs and 37SQN C-130Js transport troops and supplies between Darwin and Dili. The flights also commence evacuations of civilians on the return legs. The flights continue throughout the night and the following day to form an air bridge between Darwin and Dili.

26 May
  • (Dili) Malaysian Army soldiers begin arrive in Dili. RAAF aircraft continue to transport troops and equipment.
  • United States Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team platoon arrives in Dili to protect the US Embassy.

27 May

29 May
  • The initial deployment of Australian soldiers is completed.
  • A platoon of 42 New Zealand soldiers arrives in Dili to secure the New Zealand embassy.

31 May
  • Delta Company, 2/1 Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment of 123 New Zealand soldiers arrives in Dili.

June 2006

2 June

3 June

7 June

16 June
  • Rebel Timorese soldiers begin handing their weapons over to Australian troops.

27 June
  • It is announced that a New Zealander soldier fired a warning shot during the week of 18 June-24 June. This is apparently the first shot fired during the intervention.

July 2006

1 July
  • 50 soldiers from 2/1 RNZIR and other units fly to Timor Leste to replace members of the initial New Zealand force.

18 July
  • Australian Prime Minister John Howard visits Timor Leste. During his visit he announced that the Australian force in the country will be gradually reduced.

19 July
  • HMAS Kanimbla departs Timor Leste for Australia carrying 250 soldiers and four S-70A Blackhawk helicopters.

August 2006

3 August
  • The Australian Government announces that the ADF has commenced a gradual drawdown of forces in Timor Leste due to the improving security situation. An infantry company, 23 armoured personnel carriers and support personnel are scheduled to depart Timor Leste over the next few weeks.

7 August

14 August

27 August

28 August
  • It is announced that 44 New Zealand military personnel will return home from Timor Leste on 31 August.

September 2006

7 September
  • It is announced that a rifle company from 1 RAR will be deployed to Timor Leste by 9 September to reinforce the Australian-led force following Alfredo Reinado's escape from prison on 30 August.

19 September

October 2006

26 October
  • Brigadier Mal Rerden takes command of Joint Task Force 631, replacing Brigadier Mick Slater.

December 2006

17 December
  • Protests against UN troops intensify after they are accused of being responsible for the killing of a rebel gang member during factional clashes.

January 2007

26 January

March 2007

4 March
  • After cornering Reinado at a compound in Samemarker, Australian Special Forces enter the town and conduct an assault. Reinado evades capture but five of his men are killed in the Battle of Same. The Timor Leste government subsequently called off the manhunt, preferring to pursue a dialogue with the rebels instead.

May 2007

9 May
  • Australian forces successfully supervise round two elections, with no reports of violence.

10 May
  • An unmanned Australian spy plane on operations over East Timor crashes into a house in the densely populated eastern suburb of Becora in Dili. Military helicopters were quickly sent to locate the wreckage, and an investigation was scheduled to begin the next day into whether the crash was due to technical failure or operator error.

August 2007

2 August
  • Brigadier John Hutcheson takes over command from Brigadier Mal Rerden.

January 2008

31 January
  • Brigadier James Baker takes over command from Brigadier John Hutcheson.

July 2008

31 July
  • Brigadier Mark Holmes takes over command.

January 2009

16 January
  • Brigadier Bill Sowry takes over command from Brigadier Mark Holmes.

Military units involved

HMAS Manoora off Dili on 28 May
Operation Astute is an Australian military operation. While the Malaysian and New Zealand contingents operate under overall Australian command, the Portuguese contingent operates under Portuguese national command. The initial Australian units deployed as part of the operation fell under the operational command of Brigadier Michael Slater, the commander of the Australian 3rd Brigade. The major unit involved in land operations was the 3rd Battalion under its commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Mick Mumford. This force was be replaced in early September 2006 by a battalion group based around the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment designated the ANZAC Battle Group.

Australian Army
Australia currently has approximately 850 personnel deployed to Timor-Leste, the majority of whom are formed into the ANZAC Battle Group, named due to the presence of a rifle company from the New Zealand Army integrated in its structure.

The initial Australian Army force consisted of:

Royal Australian Navy

The Royal Australian Navy force committed to Operation Astute is apparently the largest amphibious task force in the Navy's history.

Royal Australian Air Force

33SQN are assisting the operation by transporting troops from RAAF Base Townsvillemarker to RAAF Base Darwinmarker, however only 36SQN and 37SQN have been flying from Darwin to Dilimarker.

Malaysian Army

Royal Malaysian Navy

Royal Malaysian Police
The Malaysian Government currently anticipates replacing the Malaysian military force with Pasukan Gerakan Khas and General Operations Force operators of the Royal Malaysian Police at the end of July.

While the Portuguese forces deployed to East Timor are not operating under Australian command, they are acting in cooperation with the Australian, Malaysian and New Zealand forces which are under Australian command.

The two United States aircraft flew transport flights between Australian air bases (mainly RAAF Base Townsvillemarker and RAAF Base Darwinmarker) and were not deployed to East Timor. The aircraft did, however, visit the Solomon Islandsmarker in order pick up Australian equipment and personnel. The USAF force completed its mission on 3 June.

In addition, a platoon of the United States Marine Corps Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team was flown into Dili by a United States Navy C-40 Clipper on 26 May to secure the US embassy in Dili. This platoon does not appear to have fallen under Australian command as part of Operation Astute.

See also


  1. Troops pour into Dili, ABC News Online, 26 May 2006
  2. Dili calmer but still dangerous, Houston says, ABC News Online 26 May 2006
  3. Status of Forces Agreements: May 2006, La'o Hamutuk, 1 September 2006
  4. East Timor - Press Conference, Parliament House, The Commonwealth Treasurer, 24 May 2006
  5. John Howard holds press conference on East Timor engagement, ABC News Online, 25 May 2006
  6. E Timorese rebels surrender weapons ABC News Online. June 16, 2006.
  7. Warning Shot Fired in Timor-Leste New Zealand Minister for Defence press release. June 27, 2006.
  8. More New Zealand Troops for Timor' New Zealand Defence Force press release. June 29, 2006.
  9. Troops not leaving Dili yet, says Howard. ABC News Online. July 18, 2006.
  10. Peacekeepers to check weapons in E Timor. The Sydney Morning Herald. July 19, 2006.
  11. Drawdown of Timor Deployment Starts. Australian Department of Defence media release. August 3, 2006.
  12. Returning troops praised. Townsville Bulletin. August 8, 2006
  13. Emotional welcome for troops. Townsville Bulletin. August 28, 2006
  14. NZDF Troops to Return from Timor. New Zealand Defence Force press release. August 28, 2006
  15. Deployment of Troops to Timor Leste. Australian Department of Defence media release. 7 September 2006.
  16. Battle Group Faithful Returns from Timor-Leste. Australian Department of Defence media release. 19 September 2006.
  17. Memorandum of Understanding between the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, the United Nations, and Australia on the provision of assistance to the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, 26 January 2007.
  18. "All quiet in Timor-Leste presidential vote", United Press International, 9 May 2007
  19. "Australian spy plane crashes into Timorese home",, May 10 2007.
  20. "New commander takes over in East Timor", The West, August 02 2007.
  21. Change of command in Timor-Leste, Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP, Australian Minister for Defence, 29 January 2008.
  22. Operation ASTUTE: Brigadier Mark Holmes, MVO: Commander International Stabilisation Force (CISF), East Timor, Australian Government Department of Defence.
  23. Change of command in Australian East Timor mission, media release, Australian Government Department of Defence, 19 January 2009.
  24. Portugal refuses Australian command in E Timor. ABC News Online. June 3, 2006.
  25. Cpl Mike McSweeney 6 RAR off to Timor. Army News. 7 September, 2006.
  26. Australian Department of Defence Operation Astute. Accessed 31 March 2007 and Capt Al Green '1RAR spread far and wide' in Army News Edition 1162, March 22, 2007
  27. John Hunter Farrell, 'Dili Madness. The ANZAC Intervention in Timor Leste' in Australian and NZ Defender. No. 55 Spring 2006. Page 34.
  28. Delivering the goods. Army News. July 13 2006.
  29. Making Most of Flying Time. Army News. July 27 2006.
  30. Restoring calm and stability. Defence Magazine. June 2006.
  31. Troubled Waters. Navy News. June 1, 2006.
  32. John Hunter Farrell, 'Dili Madness. The ANZAC Intervention in Timor Leste' in Australian and NZ Defender No. 55 Spring 2006. Page 38.
  33. Malaysia Sends 209 Soldiers To Help Quell Unrest In Timor Leste. Bernama. May 26, 2006.
  34. Malcon bantu perdamaian Timor Leste Utusan Online.
  35. M'sian Police To Take Over From M'sian Troops In Timor Leste Bernama. 30 June, 2006
  36. Timor-Leste. New Zealand Defence Force. May 29, 2006.
  37. Loadmasters help reposition Australian Defense Forces. Air Force Print News. 30 May, 2006.
  38. Isle jets move aid for E. Timor. Star Bulletin. 8 June, 2006.
  39. FAST Platoon to Provide Security at U.S. Embassy Dili. United States Pacific Command. 26 May, 2006.

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