Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Australia's new Marine Corps without calling it a Marine Corps....

This is a note that I received from Aussie Digger regarding a conversation that we have been having. 

Simply put, I think Australia needs its own Marine Corps.  Here's his note to me...but first read this article from AN.
AUSTRALIA'S first marines will be ready for war when the navy's first new landing ship enters service in 2012. More than 1000 infantry troops from the Townsville-based 3rd Brigade are being trained in amphibious operations and up to 350 will be based at sea permanently as the defence force moves into a new era of "power projection" when two massive 27,000 tonne Landing Helicopter Dock ships enter service from 2014.
The former Royal Navy 16,000 tonne landing ship Largs Bay, bought for $100 million to become HMAS Choules, will be ready for low-level amphibious operations early next year.
"Whenever one of these ships leaves Townsville she will have soldiers on board rigged and ready to go," Defence's head of modernisation and plans Major General John Caligari said yesterday. The amphibious force will provide the government with a power projection capability that the nation has never had before.
Now his note...
Hey Sol,

I remember we were discussing what the Australian Army is going to do in relation to it's Amphibious Warfare capabilities (and the larger Army in general) on your blog a while back?

Well the plan as of today is this:

The Australian Regular Army has a plan called Project Beersheeba (after the famous battle of Beersheeba involving Australians in WW1) in which it is going to become what it calls an "Army of Three's". Under this plan they are going to create 3 similar Brigade sized groups for our regular forces. Each Brigade will mount 2 light infantry battalions, an artillery Regiment, an Armoured Combat Regiment - ACR, a Combat Engineer Regiment, a Signals Regiment (including EW), a Combat Support Regiment and the Brigade Headquarters.

Each ACR will feature 2x Cavalry Squadrons kitted out with ASLAV-25's and variants, a Tank Squadron kitted out with our current M1A1 AIM Abrams tanks and an armoured lift squadron, kitted out currently with the upgraded M113AS3/4 vehicles we have. This Squadron will have the capability to lift an entire infantry battalion in one lift. In future our ASLAV's are going to be replaced by something like the Boxer IFV and our M113AS3/4's are going to be replaced by something like the Puma IFV. Both of those vehicles are currently the "objective" vehicle (in capability terms) though the actual solution chosen may change as they are not due in-service for another 10 years or so yet. The M1A1 tanks are projected to continue their current TUSK upgrades and are scheduled to remain in-service until at least 2030.

The reason behind such a structure is the size of our forces and our training / deployment / resetting cycle for force generation. Our Army's strategic guidance is that it should have a Brigade sized formation available for extended, deployed operations that is sustainable and can be rotated in place with a "like" force as well as maintaining the capability to deploy a separate battalion sized force to another theatre for shorter duration Ops (though not necessarily lower intensity).

So the 3 like Brigades is how we will manage the raise, train, sustain force generation cycle and meet our Strategic guidance requirements with each Brigade structure, equipped and trained to the same standards. The difference now is that our capabilities in this area are similar, except they are grouped together (like our Tank Regiment for example) for efficiencies sake, rather than what is optimal to support the force as a whole in peacetime and on Ops.

Our supporting elements such as Aviation assets (MRH-90 TTH, Tiger ARH, Chinook, UAV/EW/Air Defence assets etc) will be structured and equipped as independant Brigades but with the element of 3 sub-units per Brigade to support the raise, train, sustain deployment cycle.

Piggy-backing on each of the Regular Brigades will be our Army Reserve units. These will follow the same basic structure and training but will be equipped with less capable (and expensive) equipment but still capable enough of being useful, an example of this would be that instead of Puma IFV's (assuming it's chosen) the Army Reserve will use the Bushmaster IMV. Instead of the Boxer wheeled IFV the Reserve units will use an armoured and up-gunned version of whichever JLTV vehicle we choose and so on.

That will give our main land combat forces 6 full Brigades (2 Divisions) that are structured and trained in an individual and collective way to a similar degree (though the Reserves won't be as well trained collectively) and equipped to a basic degree, the same. 

So that's the main Army. Now onto the part you are probably mostly interested in:

Our new Battalion + sized Amphibious Ready Group.

To meet the other strategic requirement, (ie: maintain at least a battalion group capable of operations in a separate theatre) we are going to employ our 7th regular light battalion to provide our "Amphibious Ready Group". This battalion is going to be bigger and structured differently to our other regular battalions, but it too is going to comply with the rule of 3 "raise, train, sustain" mantra our Army goes by.

It is going to be capable of generating 3x 350 'men' strong sub-units, each capable of deploying aboard our LHD Amphibious vessels. These elements will be trained and equipped for Amphibious Operations, with one of the 350x men groups (let's call them Companies for convenience sake, but they'll be nearly 3 times the size of a normal Australian infantry Company) permanently at sea on a rotational basis on either of the 2 LHD's or our new HMAS Choules (ex- RFA Largs Bay).

These groups will be supported with their own armour, deployable in-direct fire support assets (unknown what this means exactly but probably 120mm mortar systems and precision guided mortar rounds) and supporting direct fire systems, such as Javelin / Carl Gustav anti-armour weapons and so on.   

If a larger contingency occurs, the entire Amphibious Ready Group will be capable of deploying on the 2 LHD's supported by additional armour, artillery, aviation, combat support and so on.

No requirement formally exists yet, for an over the horizon landing capability, but it's relatively early days. That requirement will almost certainly come in future years and Australia will be looking to acquire Amphibious Assault vehicles.

So that is the plan. No Australian Marine Corps or any such thing, but we will have a dedicated Amphibious Army unit capable of deploying up to 1050 troops with our new LHD's, fully supported of course by armour, artillery, aviation assets and so on.
My response to these developments?

Hell Yes!

Baby steps to a full amphibious capability only makes sense.  The Aussie's see the need for a Marine type capability. 

My prediction is that they will soon see a need for a full on S. Korean sized Marine Corps within a decade.


  1. No probs mate. Very keen on the next Defence Capability Plan release now (not due til 2013, but hey!)

    I'm almost certain an amphibious assault capability from the LHD's beyond the LCM-1E's we ordered recently will be sought. If we're going to dothis thing, we may as well do it properly!

  2. Aussie,.do you have a vehicle planned to use for beach assaults? Like my aav? If your going to man a amphibious force that part of the equation is important.

  3. I agree entirely an AAV is essential to ensure our amphibious forces can maneuver sufficiently and with a reasonable level of protection and firepower.

    Unfortunately we do not currently have a project to acquire any ship to shore capability greater than an LCM-1E or a Balikpapan Class LCH can manage. Whilst both can lift reasonable loads, they are not assault vehicles of any kind and are suitable for admin transports only in low to no threat environments.

    Which is why I believe that as our amphibious capability develops an AAV type capability is almost guaranteed. We have vastly inadequate NGS capability to suppress any land based forces, we won't have STOVL jets to boost our firepower and too few gunships to adequately support us in the case of even no air threat. If there's any air threat at all, the half a dozen Tigers won't deploy. For this capability to work at all, an AAV becomes almost essential just to land the troops with some degree of safety under such circumstances.

  4. I'd point out here that other Marine forces operate differently and don't see an AAV as an essential tool. Look at how the Royal Marines fight, I don't see an AAV there. Are you guys suggesting they couldn't mount a beach assault because of this?

  5. Actually the royal marines to have a vehicle like the aav. The bc-10 Viking. The big diffrence; the aav can carry much much more. It's more that a vehicle like aav gives a marine force options and multiple redundancy to get a good deal of man and equipment on the beach

  6. John - the BVS10 Viking is amphibious, it is not an "assault" vehicle and is not used in that role. It provides "protected mobility" for the Royal Marines, and in benign or limited circumstances (and the right sea state!) it can of course swim ashore from a well deck, but assaulting a defended beach under fire is NOT the conops for BVS10 use.

  7. The Royal Marines could, but they have far greater fire support capabilities than we would have available to us to suppress any land based force to enable their landings.

    I know they've lost their Harriers but they will be getting carriers and F-35C to replace them and they have a much larger helicopter gunship force and the ability to carry them nto the theatre than we will have.

    Hence the protected mobility that an AAV provides, will probably be more important for us I suspect.

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