Major changes to Army’s capability and structure, including the transfer of key combat units from South Australia to the country’s north, were announced by Defence Minister Richard Marles on 28 September.
The new order of battle implements recommendations from the Defence Strategic Review (DSR) released in April that the Army must focus on amphibious operations in Australia’s immediate region rather than on land wars in the Middle East.
According to a new Army Structure and Posture chart obtained by ADM, the changes from 2004 will “optimise littoral manoeuvre, enhance long range fires and posture in the north to contribute to the integrated force”.
Marles told a press conference that the restructure would take place over two to three personnel posting cycles – about five to six years – with relocations beginning in 2005 and phased in line with equipment deliveries.
Under the changes, the 3rd Brigade based in Townsville will be transformed into the army’s sole heavy combat formation, equipped eventually with Abrams MIAI main battle tanks moved from the 1st Armoured Regiment in Adelaide; Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicles; Redback infantry fighting vehicles; AS9 Huntsman 155mm self-propelled howitzers; and Chinook heavy lift and Apache attack helicopters.
Darwin’s 1st Brigade is redesignated as a light and agile combat formation, optimised for littoral operations and including support to land-based long-range fires.
3rd Brigade in Townsville is described as an armoured combat brigade that retains amphibious capability enabling maritime force projection into the region; Brisbane’s 7th Brigade as a heavy motorised combat force optimised to operate in the littoral and rapidly project by air and sea in order to respond to regional contingency.
Three new “Littoral Lift” groups, designed to transport weapons and personnel from ocean to land on medium to heavy vessels yet to be acquired, will be created in Darwin, Townsville and Brisbane.
Meanwhile the World War 1-era 10th Brigade is to be re-raised and based in Adelaide as a future-focused unit to operate High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMSARS) and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) capabilities.
Retasking of 1 Armoured Regiment will see it remain in Adelaide as an innovation and experimentation unit, focused on bringing into quick operation for the Army the newest technologies and innovative practices.