Friday, August 05, 2016

Why isn't Australia building a Marine Corps?

Troops of the Royal Australian Regiment disembark from U.S. Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicles during RIMPAC 2012. Department of Defense photo
Much discussion has revolved around the Land 400 Phase 2 contest and while we all have different positions on the vehicles selected the vast majority feel that Australia needs a Marine Corps.

I personally find it stunning that a nation with such a rich maritime history, one that was part of the "empire" doesn't have a Marine Corps.  Its almost obscene!  So why hasn't Australia built a Marine Corps and if they DID what would it look like?

What type force?  Full spectrum or Commando?

This is the building block of the force and will tell us what it should be.  In short should they follow the example of the Royal Marines or the USMC?  If they go in the direction of the Brits then they'll be a lightweight but effective force.  Optimization will be to raiding and other Commando missions but against more capable opponents they will see their utility diminished.  If they follow the USMC example they will build a medium weight force that can flex from low spectrum up to peer state threat level combat.  IT WILL be much more expensive, will require at least another dedicated battalion from the Australian Army and will probably require dedicated squadrons from the Australian Air Force to provide supporting fires in the maritime environment.

What specialized equipment?

Besides the basics what type of specialized equipment would the Aussies need?  Again this goes toward what type of force they've building.  If they go the Royal Marine route then the BVS-10 to transport Marines inland toward their raid sites would seem to make sense.  The issue for them isn't armoring but all terrain capability.  Additionally the BVS-10 gives a limited ship to shore capability.  NOTE!  If the Aussies do decide to go the Commando way then I'm sure they'll find that their most important asset is the LCM-1E that they've bought.

What will the 2RAR actually deliver?

Despite all my musing above I think its obvious what the Australians are doing.  They've bought completely into the USMC's Company Landing Team concept and the 2RAR will simply provide a "Ready" Company for emergencies, a Company afloat and then one doing training.  I personally believe that the CLT is biased toward Counter Insurgency and Special Operations Support.

The result?

Australia will once again find itself falling behind other advanced militaries in the region.  Who has Marine Corps (or is building them)?  Japan, S. Korea, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Taiwan and probably a few I've missed.  The bigger question is one I can't answer.  Why would a nation choose not to build a capable,  swing role force?

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