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Army Adapting its views on Combined Arms to Contribute to Littoral Operations

Like a Fish out of Water…

Australian Army soldiers and Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles are loaded onto LHD Landing Crafts during the reconstitution of the Australian Amphibious Force during Exercise Sea Raider 2023.

The Defence Strategic Review makes one thing clear to those concerned in Australia’s profession of arms: Army must be optimised for littoral operations in Australia’s northern land and maritime approaches.

As the Indo-Pacific faces increased competition, the commentary surrounding Army’s littoral refocus suggests that it will provide a critical function in projecting forces further into Australia’s northern approaches to deliver deterrence through denial. Army will be key in the defence of Australia within the inner arc, denying the land-sea-air gap in the archipelagos to Australia’s north[1].

Sink or Swim – Adapting to understand the maritime domain

“Littoral Warfare requires the closest of cooperation amongst the services, or ‘jointness’…” Vego, Milan (2015) "On Littoral Warfare," Naval War College Review[2].

So how does Army adapt to contribute to littoral warfare? One area that could be modified is the education of junior officers for joint operations in the littorals. There is a gap in the officer training continuum that overlooks the capacity for junior commanders to have an appreciation for the maritime domain that is present within the littoral environment. The archipelagic nature of the Indo-Pacific will see Army’s combined arms teams integrate more frequently and at lower echelons within a joint context in support of littoral warfare. It is vital that Army adapts the way it educates its junior officers to provide them with a foundational understanding of littoral / maritime concepts, enabling sound tactical decision making at the in support of Joint Multi-Domain Operations associated with littoral warfare.

There are opportunities to utilise the All Corps Officer Training Continuum (ACOTC) as a vehicle to promote and disseminate littoral manoeuvre concepts across the force. The Combined Arms theory packages across the continuum can be used as a medium to facilitate the systematic education of Army’s junior officers on how to plan for littoral operations in a joint environment. The Cove, released a series of articles that alludes to the future of Combined Arms adapting to integrate the lethal effects of the land domain in the joint fight[3]; acknowledging that fighting as a joint force adds a different dimension to the overall combined arms effect[4].

Getting our Sea Legs – What to teach and how?

To optimise Army for the littoral means that basic maritime lexicon and planning considerations should be as instinctive as the vernacular used in the land domain. A Nautical Mile, Coordinates, LCM-8 should be as intuitive as a Kilometre, MGRS or PMV Bushmaster. Understanding basic maritime concepts is critical to operating in the littorals, it allows commanders to appropriately plan for littoral manoeuvre and make informed tactical decisions that are considerate of joint maritime capability.

The 2nd Battalion (Amphibious) and the 5th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR and 5 RAR respectively) emphasise the ‘education’ of their soldiers and officers to undertake specialised ‘amphibious’ and ‘littoral’ operations. Their members undergo specific training such as the Advanced Small Craft Operators (ASCO) course to ‘lead and fight’ in littoral areas using small boats. Often misconstrued as an operator’s course, those familiar with the curriculum regard it as a form of PME. It exposes their units to the maritime planning considerations associated with amphibious and littoral warfare, enhancing their interoperability across the joint force. The ACOTC can gain inspiration from 2RAR and 5RAR on courses learning outcomes used to prepare the force to be optimised for littoral warfare. 

Benefits can be found through the ACOTC maintaining the use of single service examples as to teach combined arms warfare; the package should however, progress to incorporate joint and maritime considerations in a littoral manoeuvre context. The vertically nested littoral manoeuvre package, across the ACOTC, should be scalable to include littoral manoeuvre capabilities, and planning considerations in a joint context that is commensurate to rank and experience.  Based off the ASCO curriculum, the ACOTC should encompasses the following basic littoral, and maritime concepts:

  • Introduce the mechanics of a littoral/amphibious operations. Develop an understanding on how littoral and amphibious operations are conducted at the Platoon, Combat Team, and Battlegroup level. Just as an Army Officer understands SOSRA as the mechanics for a combined arms breach, they should also understand the mechanics behind PERMSAT / EMPRSAT[5] for an amphibious/littoral operation.
  • Maritime and Littoral Capabilities. Understand the current in-service maritime and littoral capabilities in relation to the combat functions they fulfil within the Battlespace Operating System (BOS). Just as an Army Officer understands the lift capacity of a PMV Bushmaster or operational safety distance of an 81mm Mortar, they should also understand the lift capacity of an LLC or the employment considerations of Naval Gunfire Support.
  • The environmental effects of the littoral battlespace. Understanding key meteorological and hydrographical considerations and the impact on in-service capabilities. Just as an Army Officer is required to understand the environmental impact on Machine Gun theory, they should also understand the impacts of Sea State, beach gradients and draft depth on littoral manoeuvre vessels (using the weather effects on D-Day as a prime example)[6].
  • Nautical Chart Work. To aid in the manoeuvre planning across the land and maritime domains of the littorals. Just as an Army Officer can plan a route on a map, so too should they understand how to plot a passage plan on a chart to facilitate the seamless transition between domains.

The above concepts were taught to the most recent graduates of Army Officers at the School of Infantry, in response to curriculum updates. A theory and TEWT package was developed to educate the trainees in the mechanics, capabilities and environmental considerations of littoral manoeuvre at the platoon level. The course evaluation suggested that the students understood the theoretical application and considerations surrounding the capability and recommended the package be formally included in future courses.

An Integrated Force – All Corps “O3’s” Course

“Littoral warfare is inherently joint (multiservice)… in the modern era, no single combat arm or service can reach its full potential unless it is employed in combination with other combat arms, branches, and services…” Vego, Milan (2015) "On Littoral Warfare," Naval War College Review[2].

To become an integrated force, we need to ensure our officers are trained in how the joint force operates. At the basic level we make sure that officers know how to work with their fellow arms and trades in single-service environments. Taking the All Corps Captains Course (ACCC) as an example, it is the first point at which the officers are taught the essentials of the Staff Military Appreciation Process (SMAP). The next obvious step is to teach officers the next layer of complexity – the Joint Military Appreciation Process (JMAP) through the already active Introduction to Joint Warfighting and Planning Foundations course delivered by the Australian Defence Force Warfare Training Centre. This additional ‘elective’ courses paired with ACCC would go a long way to broadening the horizons of junior officers and teaching them the fundamentals of joint operations.

Moreover, developing relationships in a tri-service environment is essential. Sharing information, developing organisational partnerships across the integrated force, and helping commanders train and develop themselves and their teams, collectively contribute to a culture of cohesion and cooperation that undergirds joint endeavours. That is the starting point for instilling those principles in junior officers even before their initial aboard instruction. Ensuring they are prepared for integration and active participation in joint littoral manoeuvre discussions and beginning to actualise their ability to contribute meaningfully to joint operations and the force’s effectiveness.

We are an Army, not Marines

On the one hand, because we should always strive to maintain the reputation of Army as a potent land-based fighting force, it’s vital to continually reinforce the primary focus of the Army: projecting combat power and gaining victory on land. On the other hand, because of the increasing complexity of Australia’s contemporary operating environment and the growing need for organic joint / littoral flexibility, Army needs to adapt its field of view to adopt an awareness of the maritime domain.

This doesn’t mean that we all need to be ‘shore-to-shore’ mini-navy amphibians, or experts in littoral insertion techniques… Yet it does mean, as argued, that a baseline level of conceptual understanding of joint and littoral operations is expected from our junior officers, enabling a forward-operating rapid connection and reconfiguration into joint, as well as a single service – land-based – context. This context-setting will enable the readiness and capability to operate effectively in tomorrow’s littoral, as well as land-based, operating environment.


As the Army adapts its focus to contribute effectively to littoral operations in the Indo-Pacific, it's crucial to prioritise educating junior officers for joint operations in these environments. Through the ACOTC, officers can learn essential maritime concepts and incorporate the JMAP. By fostering relationships in a tri-service environment and instilling a baseline understanding of joint and littoral operations in junior officers, the Army can ensure readiness and capability in tomorrow's littoral operating environment while maintaining its reputation as a potent land-based fighting force.


[1] Bristow, A. and Schultz, M. (2023) Army has a critical role in Defence Strategic Review’s ‘integrated force’The Strategist. Available at: (Accessed: 10 May 2024). 

[2] ‘On Littoral Warfare’ (2015) Naval War College Review, pp. 1–19. Available at: (Accessed: 10 May 2024). 

[3] Barlow, C. (2023) Combined arms from my perspective: Infantry, The Cove. Available at: (Accessed: 10 May 2024). 

[4] Gibson, R. (2023) The recent history of Combined Arms, The Cove. Available at: (Accessed: 10 May 2024). 

[5] Australian Defence Doctrine Publication (ADDP) 3.2 Amphibious operations, edition 3, 2018 (Department of Defence: Canberra).

[6] Imperial War Museums (no date) How D-day was delayed by a weather forecastImperial War Museums. Available at:,severe%20storm%20hit%20the%20Channel. (Accessed: 10 May 2024). 

The views expressed in this article and subsequent comments are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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