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Royal Australian Navy

Australia is an island continent, and therefore its primary defense focus is on maritime defense. Naval and air forces are given high priority capability to perform their tasks, backed up by a mobile, technologically advanced army. The use of a relatively small defense force tomaximum advantage has required a series ofprocurement plans to acquire state of the art informationtechnology, intelligence, commandsystems, surveillance, subsurface and surface forces, strikecapability, and land defense. It is difficult to design an intermediate Navy such as that of Austrlia, especially because of the size of the geographical scenario. As it cannot be prepared for everything, it is necessary to assign priorities to the resources selected.

Australia has embarked on its largest naval warship acquisition program since World War II. The major new direction that has emerged through consideration of current and future requirements is a significant focus on enhancing maritime capabilities. Over the two decades 2010 to 2030 the Royal Australian Navy plans to acquire over 40 new ships and submarines along with new sensors, weapons and equipment worth around $70 billion. The shopping list includes 12 Future Submarines, 8 Future Frigates and 20 Offshore Combatant Vessels, along with submarine and surface ship upgrades. Some of these projects won’t get under way for another 10 years or more.

By the mid-2030s, the RAN will have a heavier and more potent maritime force. This entails the acquisition a fleet of 47 warships including doubling the size of the submarine force (12 more capable boats to replace the current fleet of six Collins class submarines), replacing the current Anzac class frigates with 11 more capable Future Frigates optimised for ASW; 20 offshore combat ships, two very large amphibious ships, a strategic sealift ship and new supply ship, and enhance the capability for offshore maritime warfare, border protection and mine countermeasures. This armada is what Defence calls Force 2030. The costs of the naval platforms alone amount to about AU$80 billion. If the costs of maintaining these warships through their expected 25-year life cycle are included, then the total is approaching AU$250 billion.

Sharing the same seas, navies frequently interact with one another and are at ease with the issues involved in international operations. Nevertheless, interoperability cannot be assumed and requires substantial and sustained effort to achieve common doctrine, common procedures and common communications. The greater the commonality in equipment and methods achieved, the less duplication of resources and the fewer delays there will be in achieving operational results when nations come together in contingencies. Formal alliances are the primary mechanism for achieving interoperability, but other approaches are possible through port visits, passage exercises and other cooperative activities. They can range from regular and highly sophisticated multinational exercises to exchange postings and information exchange agreements. One multilateral example of co-operation is the Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS), which brings together regional navies to discuss matters of mutual interest. Amongst the products of the WPNS is the Code for Unalerted Encounters at Sea (CUES), a code of practice for naval units encountering each other unexpectedly, which provides guidance on manoeuvring and communications.

  • Major fleet units - These ships are designed to operate independently in most navigable areas of the world's oceans. They can operate for extended periods at sea by replenishing supplies, including fuel, water, provisions and ammunition while underway. Their internal logistic support capacity enables them to react to changes in mission because they have specialist personnel, access to resources, some onboard maintenance capability, and can operate independently of a parent base.
  • Minor war vessels - Smaller vessels are designed to operate autonomously for much shorter periods. Their tasking is usually regional due to their requirement for support from their parent establishment or ship, but occasionally they deploy remotely, including to foreign ports. Their logistic support is limited by the space available for provisions and repair parts. They usually do not have dedicated logistics personnel embarked and their support is organised and provided by the staff of the parent establishment. Examples of such vessels include patrol boats, landing craft and mine warfare craft. Clearance Diving Teams (CDTs), helicopter detachments and special forces elements are supported in a similar way.
  • Coastal and harbour craft - These vessels are designed for work in and around the harbor environment and therefore rely heavily on shore based support. They have minimal, if any, self-sufficient logistics capability.

In 2013 the Australian government introduced the nation’s toughest border protection measures to stop a steady flow of asylum seekers arriving by sea. Operation Sovereign Borders, a military-led border security initiative, was criticized by rights groups, who claimed Australia is breaching its international refugee obligations. When Australia’s conservative coalition won the 2013 Australian federal election, incoming Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised that his government would stop asylum seekers reaching the country by boat.

Operation Sovereign Borders began in October 2013. The military was ordered to turn or tow migrant vessels away from Australia’s northern waters. The government called it an invaluable effort “to combat people smuggling and protect Australia’s borders.” Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said in September 2014 that the military had turned back a dozen boats. Morrison said he was "utterly convinced" that every asylum seeker was returned safely back to Indonesia, a popular transit point for migrants trying to reach Australia by sea.

The government in Canberra has deployed the navy to intercept vessels carrying asylum seekers, and is refusing resettlement to anyone arriving on unauthorized boats. Boat arrivals are being transferred to Australian-sponsored camps on the tiny South Pacific republic of Nauru, and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

Australia's government acknowledged in January 2014 its navy breached Indonesian territorial sovereignty as part of its controversial policy to stop boats carrying asylum seekers. Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the incursions were “inadvertent,” but they could nonetheless further enflame tensions with Indonesia. Australia apologized to its northern neighbor after its navy entered Indonesian territorial waters several times without permission. Canberra will not say what its ships were doing, but has previously insisted that boats carrying asylum seekers from Indonesia would be forced to return by the military.

Reports said that some vessels have already been turned around, although there has been no confirmation from Australian officials. The tow-back policy has angered Jakarta, which believes it would violate its sovereignty. Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison downplayed the suggestion that this episode will further damage bilateral ties that were strained by a 2013 spying scandal.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees have been resettled in Australia since the 1950s.

Maritime Air Forces

The organic combat helicopters available to the RAN include the Seahawk and Sea Sprite helicopters described below, while the Sea King operates in the organic utility role. Smaller helicopters can also be utilised for shipborne utility operations, notably in support of the Hydrographic Force, but are not normally employed on combat operations. The Army's Blackhawks can operate as battlefield utility helicopters organic to the amphibious transports.

Integral to Australian concepts of maritime warfare are the P3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, the F-111 strike reconnaissance aircraft and the F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft. In the future, airborne early warning and control aircraft will be similarly critical to the ADF being an effective operator in maritime warfare and both naval and air force personnel will be embarked. Very few maritime operations can be contemplated without consideration of the air and that control of the air is an integral component of sea control. Furthermore, the capabilities of air and naval forces tend to be complementary rather than supplementary because of the unique characteristics of platforms of each environment.

The established fatigue life of the P-3’s critical structure was originally forecast to expire on the fleet-lead aircraft in early 2008. Australian Aerospace and joint venture partner MPSPO provided the SBI Program as a solution to the Australian Government to extend the structural life of type to meet the planned P-3 withdrawal from service date of 2018.

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Page last modified: 28-08-2018 04:33:55 ZULU