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Maritime Strategy

The 1987 ‘two-ocean’ navy policy saw Navy undertake a major repositioning of its fleet operations. Whereas once the majority of the fleet was stationed on the eastern seaboard, the introduction of a Government “two-ocean” navy policy saw the fleet distributed between New South Wales and Western Australia. The two major bases became Fleet Base East on Garden Island in Sydney and Fleet Base West at HMAS Stirling on Western Australia’s own Garden Island, south of Perth. The rationale behind the ‘two-ocean’ navy policy included the potential savings in fuel, maintenance and sea time if Indian Ocean deployments began their journey from Western Australia rather than New South Wales.

Australia's military concept of strategy was established in the government's policy paper Defence 2000: Our Future Defence Force. The government has directed a maritime strategy to achieve Australia's enduring strategic preference to resolve any military threat to the Australian mainland by achieving decision in our maritime approaches rather than on or over the mainland itself. In 2003, the government's paper Australia's National Security: A Defence Update determined that the threat of direct military attack on Australia had reduced since 2000, but that Australia's geographic advantages did not protect it from the new global uncertainties of weapons of mass destruction, long-range ballistic missiles and terrorism. Some rebalancing of the existing force and future priorities was announced to counter these developing uncertainties.

In 2004, a committee of the Australian Parliament reviewed the current maritime strategy. This committee's report was significant for several reasons. While endorsing Australia's need for a truly maritime strategy, it also noted that such a strategy extends further than a sea denial capability in the maritime approaches. The committee's identification of greater changes to land and air rather than just naval capabilities in pursuit of the strategy confirmed the joint nature of Australian operations in the maritime environment.

Sea Control Operations - Wherever the freedom of action of the maritime force is challenged and, in particular, as it approaches the area of operations, there will be a requirement to establish levels of sea control that will be sufficient to ensure its protection and to enable subsequent operations. Without sea control, the ability of maritime forces to manoeuvre, concentrate for offensive action, apply leverage, project power ashore and deny the same to the opponent will be adversely constrained and battlespace dominance will not have been achieved.

Power Projection Operations - With the establishment of appropriate levels of sea control, maritime forces are able to project power ashore. Power projection can take a number of forms, including amphibious operations, maritime air support and surface and sub-surface land attack. A robust command and control system that, in the case of amphibious operations, must be capable of deploying ashore, gathering intelligence, concentrating combat power and generating influence over the battlespace, is critical for power projection operations. Co-ordination and synchronisation with land and air operations will be required.

Support of Operations Ashore - Once the focus of an intervention campaign moves ashore, the emphasis of maritime forces will shift from being enabling to being supportive. This is not to say that the tasks assigned to maritime forces will necessarily alter significantly, but the wider purpose to which these tasks contribute will change. Expressed in the most appropriate doctrinal terms, maritime power can contribute to all the components of capability required for the conduct of operations ashore. In particular, the focus will be on enhancing the manoeuvrist characteristics of the land campaign by intelligent application of the principal attributes of maritime power, in particular its ability to enhance manoeuvre and apply force where it is least expected.

Network centric warfare (NCW) is an approved ADF concept that is already driving decisions on future capability. NCW is one of several terms used internationally to describe the way military forces will fight and be organised in the information age. Given that the naval fire support plans employed in support of the Allied troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula demonstrated the principles required in a 21st century networked force, it is tempting to view NCW as merely a logical step in harnessing new and existing technology to the service of armed conflict. However, NCW has the potential to change operating cultures and procedures, such as giving the unit possessing the best situational awareness the ability to control the firing of weapons by units remote from its locality. The concept holds great promise for a commonality of understanding between friendly forces, even if the extent to which its implementation can impact on maritime geo-strategic realities is not yet clear.

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Page last modified: 27-03-2012 18:13:00 ZULU