1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2004  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/02/2004   
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Contents >> Defence >> Capabilities

The changing strategic environment highlights the need for the ADF to be a flexible and adaptable defence force, which is both ready to be deployed at short notice and can be sustained on operations for as long as required. Capability is the power to achieve a desired effect in a nominated environment in a specified period of time, and to sustain it for a designated period. Currently, the development of capability is guided by four strategic tasks:

  • to be capable of defending Australian territory from any credible attack, without relying on help from the combat forces of any other country
  • to have Defence forces able to make a major contribution to the security of the immediate neighbourhood
  • to be able to contribute effectively to international coalitions of forces to meet crises beyond Australia’s immediate neighbourhood where Australia’s interests are engaged and
  • to undertake regular or occasional peacetime tasks.

In order to achieve the requirements specified in the 2000 Defence White Paper, the ADF maintains a force structure with the following elements:

  • a surface combatant force of six guided missile frigates and four Anzac-class frigates, together with onboard helicopters
  • a surface patrol capability comprising 15 Fremantle-class patrol boats (to be replaced by Armidale-class patrol boats between 2004-05 and 2007-08)
  • six Collins-class submarines
  • an amphibious lift force comprising two amphibious landing ships, one heavy landing ship and six heavy landing craft
  • a mine warfare force comprising six coastal mine hunters, two auxiliary mine sweepers and two clearance diving teams
  • a hydrographic force comprising two hydrographic ships and four survey motor launches
  • an afloat support force comprising one oil tanker and one replenishment ship.

  • a mechanised force, based on 1 Brigade, consisting of a reconnaissance regiment equipped with Australian light armoured vehicles, a tank regiment, a mechanised infantry battalion, an artillery regiment and engineer and logistic support
  • a light infantry force, based on 3 Brigade, consisting of three infantry battalions, a field artillery regiment, an armoured personnel carrier squadron and engineer and logistics support
  • an aviation force, based on two aviation regiments consisting of both rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft
  • a ground-based air defence force, consisting of RBS70 and Rapier missile systems
  • a combat support force, consisting of engineering, topographical, electronic warfare, incident response, intelligence, communication and military police units based throughout Australia
  • a regional surveillance force consisting of three regional force surveillance battalion-sized units
  • a logistic support force consisting of a brigade-sized logistical support organisation, comprising Regular and Reserve transport, engineer, signals, medical and electrical mechanical engineer units
  • a motorised infantry force, based on 7 Brigade, comprising a reconnaissance regiment, two motorised battalions, and combat and logistic support units
  • a protective operations force drawn from the Reserves, comprising two or three infantry battalions, an armoured reconnaissance unit, and combat and logistic support units.

Air Force
  • a strike operations force, to provide support for ground forces and to conduct air reconnaissance tasks, consisting of one operational F-111 squadron
  • an air combat force consisting of three front-line F/A-18 squadrons, supported by training squadrons
  • a strategic surveillance force, consisting of a wide-area surveillance system (Jindalee Operational Radar Network) monitoring Australia’s northern approaches, and a range of ground radars and other support elements
  • a maritime patrol force consisting of two front-line P-3C Orion squadrons
  • an air-lift force consisting of 24 C-130 Hercules, 14 Caribou, 4 Boeing 707 and eight VIP aircraft
  • an air combat support force consisting of two combat support wings, one expeditionary combat support wing, 2 combat reserve wing and one air field defence wing.


In response to the changing strategic environment, some re-balancing of capabilities is necessary to maintain the defence of Australia and its interests. This will not fundamentally alter the size, structure or role of the ADF, but will increase emphasis on readiness, mobility and interoperability, as well as the development and enhancement of new capabilities. Decisions have been made to implement a number of measures in response to the changing strategic environment and include:
  • increasing the size of the special forces
  • establishing a special operations command
  • enhancements to counter-terrorist capabilities
  • advancing some intelligence projects
  • purchasing additional, more capable troop lift helicopters
  • establishing an incident response regiment to expand chemical, biological, nuclear, radiological and explosive defence capabilities
  • implementing measures to enhance the ability to contribute to coalition operations.

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