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Australian Army
Flag of Australia.svg

Active 1 March 1901 – Present
Country Australia
Type Army
Size 27,828 (Regular)
17,064 (Active Reserve)
12,496 (Standby Reserve)
Part of Australian Defence Force
Engagements Second Boer War
World War I
World War II
Korean War
Malayan Emergency
Indonesian Confrontation
Vietnam War
East Timor
War in Afghanistan
Iraq War
Chief of the Defence Force ACM Angus Houston AC, AFC
Chief of Army LTGEN Ken Gillespie AO, DSC, CSM
FM William Birdwood, 1st Baron Birdwood
GEN Sir John Monash
GEN Sir Henry Chauvel
FM Sir Thomas Blamey

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. While the Chief of Defence (CDF) commands the Australian Defence Force (ADF), the Army is commanded by the Chief of Army (CA). The CA is therefore subordinate to the CDF, but is also directly responsible to the Minister for Defence.[1] 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.

The Australian Army's mission is to provide a potent, versatile, and updated Army to promote the security of Australia and protect its people.[2][3][4] Further, the Army's key doctrine publication, The Fundamentals of Land Warfare, states that "the Army’s mission is to win the land battle".[5]



The Australian Army is oriented toward low- and medium-intensity operations against symmetric and asymmetric enemies. The Army has traditionally been structured as a light infantry force. This has changed somewhat in recent years, with an increased emphasis on motorised and mechanized forces. In the next few years, two of the seven regular infantry battalions will be mechanized (using the upgraded M113 APC) and two will be motorised (using the Bushmaster). Nevertheless, the motorised and mechanized battalions still train with an orientation toward operations in close combat and have a high emphasis on patrolling and other dismounted operations, thus maintaining the traditional Australian skill set.

Until recently, the main area of operations has been Asia, particularly South East Asia and the Pacific, so the light infantry orientation has not been a hindrance. In fact the Australian Army is known to produce troops and units with a very high standard of jungle warfare, patrolling, ambushing and other infantry skills.

Due to Australia's small population, the Army will always make up only a statistically small role in coalition operations. Successive Australian governments since 1989 have deployed components of the ADF with specific skill sets, so that the Australian contribution is always of greater significance than raw numbers of troops would suggest. Often this has taken the form of the deployment of special forces, though this has changed in recent years, for example in Afghanistan. Australian forces have always trained with and maintained close relationships the US and British forces and are now being equipped to better interoperate with US/British/coalition forces. The defence relationship with US forces is probably now closer than it has been at any point since the Vietnam war, especially at a working level.


A trench at Lone Pine after the battle, showing Australian and Turkish dead on the parapet

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.
Soldiers of the Australian 39th Battalion in September 1942

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

ASLAVs in Iraq in 2006

The Australian Army currently has significant forces deployed on four major operations:[6]

  • Operation Catalyst - Australia's commitment to the Coalition forces in Iraq.
  • Operation Kruger - Australia's 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 to 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's structure in 2008 (click to enlarge)

1st division takes 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.[7]

1st Division

1st Division is currently based on regular Army Brigades containing a total of 10 deployable Battlegroups

  • 1 Brigade - a Mechanised Brigade based in Darwin.
  • 3 Brigade - a Light Infantry Brigade based in Townsville
  • 7 Brigade - a Motorised Brigade based in Brisbane.
  • 1 Armoured Cavalry Regiment (ASLAV)
  • 2 Motorised Infantry Battalions (Bushmaster IMV)
  • 1 Field Artillery Regiment (L119 Howitzer)

2nd Division

2nd Division is this is the main home defence formation, consisting mainly of reserve forces, with its HQ located in Sydney. It is divided into 6 brigades.

Special Forces

Special Operations Command is a command formation of equal status to the other commands in the ADF, but is drawn exclusively from the Army. It is a brigade sized formation responsible for all of Australia's special forces assets.

Colours, standards and guidons

Governor-General Sir William Deane presents the new Army Banner to the Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army in 2001

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.[8] 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".

All colours of the Army were on parade for the centenary of the Army, 10 March 2001

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.[9]



In the 2008–09 financial year the Army had an average strength of 44,892 personnel, including 27,828 permanent (regular) and 17,064 active reservists (part-time).[10] In addition there are another 12,496 members of the Standby Reserve.[11]

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

An infantryman training with a Leopard 1 tank in 2001

On 24 August 2006, the then Prime Minister John Howard announced a requirement for an extra 2,600 soldiers for the Australian Army, in addition to a previously announced increase of 1,500. 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. The new campaign, which included the raising of two new infantry battalions ready for overseas deployment by 2010, reportedly cost $A10 billion. The first of these new battalions, to be operational by 2008, was formed be the de-amalgamation of 5/7 RAR into the reformed 5th Battalion and 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. The second battalion to be re-raised was the 8th/9th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. Prime Minister John Howard cited causes for this requirement as the threat of unstable, possibly terrorist harbouring states in Australia’s immediate region:

[L]ook 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.[12]

The statement drew opposition from the Papua New Guinean Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, who claimed on 25 August 2006 that 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 then 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 year" where school-leavers take a year off before going to University to study.[13] Foreign nationals with prior military service have also been permitted to join the Australian Army.[14]

Concern that 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 drew criticism of these plans within some veteran’s organisations. Along with this announcement, arguments for more and better equipment were advanced, with speculation of a possible increase in the numbers of M113 APCs, Bushmaster IMV and M1A1 Abrams tanks being acquired. Indeed in late 2008 additional Bushmasters and upgraded M113s were ordered for the Australian Army in significant numbers.[15]

By mid-2007, following 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.[16] In response, plans to create a second recruit-training battalion have been put forward, but that may take years to eventuate, if at all.[17]


Small arms F88 Austeyr (service rifle), F89 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 (431 being upgraded to M113AS3/4 standard, balance to be mothballed and used to support upgrade program)
Infantry Mobility Vehicles 289 Bushmaster IMVs (737 ordered)[15]
Land Rovers 5000 FFRs 5000 GS
Artillery 112 L118/L119 105 mm Hamel Guns, 120 M2A2 105 mm Howitzer, 36 M198 155 mm Howitzer, 36 RBS-70 ground to air missile launchers.[18][19]
Radar AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder radar, AMSTAR Ground Surveliance RADAR
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Insitu Aerosonde and Elbit Systems Skylark
Aircraft Origin Type Versions Number in service[20] Notes
OH-58 Kiowa  United States
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  United States Transport helicopter CH-47D 6 7 CH-47F are on order to replace the current CH-47D's.
Eurocopter Tiger  European Union Attack helicopter Tiger ARH 16 Total of 22 to be delivered.
Sikorsky S-70 Blackhawk  United States Utility helicopter S-70A-9 35 To be eventually replaced by the MRH 90
MRH 90  European Union Utility helicopter TTH: Tactical Transport Helicopter 2 5 TTH MRH-90 have been accepted by the Defence Materiel Organisation, total of 46 on order (including 6 for Royal Australian Navy)
Australian Army Sikorsky S-70 Blackhawks 
A NH90 mockup in Australian Army colours 
Australian Army Tiger ARH 

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, Lone Pine Barracks in Singleton, New South Wales and Woodside Barracks near Adelaide, South Australia. The SASR is based at Campbell Barracks Swanbourne, a suburb of Perth, Western Australia.

Puckapunyal north of Melbourne, Victoria houses the Australian Army's Combined Arms Training Centre, Land Warfare Development Centre, and three of the five principal Combat Arms schools. 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.

See also


  1. ^ Defence Act (1903)
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ "Australian Defence Force (ADF) -". Retrieved 2009-11-29.  
  4. ^ "Australia in Brief - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade". Retrieved 2009-11-29.  
  5. ^ Australian Army. "The Fundamentals of Land Warfare". Retrieved 2007-04-11.  
  6. ^
  7. ^ David Horner (2001). Making the Australian Defence Force. Oxford University Press, Melbourne. ISBN 0195541170. Page 195.
  8. ^ "National Flags, Military Flags, & Queens and Regimental Colours". Digger History. Retrieved 2007-04-03.  
  9. ^ "Army Flags (Australia)". Flags of the World. Retrieved 2007-04-03.  
  10. ^ Australian Department of Defence (2009). Page 196.
  11. ^ Australian National Audit Office 2009.
  12. ^ "PM Announces Army Expansion". Retrieved 2006-08-24.  
  13. ^ "Doorstop Interview - Brendan Nelson". Department of Defence. Retrieved 2009-03-14.  
  14. ^ Australian Army Recruiting - Overseas Applicants
  15. ^ a b The Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP, Minister for Defence (2008-10-29). "Contract Signed for Additional Bushmasters". Press release. Retrieved 2008-10-29.  
  16. ^ "Australian Army Rise Up Recruitment". The Inspiration Room Daily. Retrieved 2007-04-10.  
  17. ^ "Diggers in hole as boom recruits go untrained".,23599,21778691-421,00.html. Retrieved 2007-05-23.  
  18. ^ "Australian Military Stregth". Retrieved 2008-03-14.  
  19. ^ 57 M777A2 and an as yet unannounced self-propelled gun are set to replace both 105 mm and 155 mm systems used by the regular army artillery.
  20. ^ Aviation Week & Space Technology 2009, 26 JAN 2009 Web.27 Jul 2009.


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