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Putting the Band Back Together – Part Two

An Enabled 1st (Australian) Division

An Australian Army soldier runs past an Australian Light Armoured Vehicle on Forrest Beach, Queensland, as part of an amphibious assault activity, during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2021.

Part One of this article outlined the historical structure of an Australian divisional. This structure was reviewed in light of the Chief of Army’s July 2023 pronouncement regarding the 1st (Australian) Division. The key capabilities currently missing are the enabling brigades that empower the division to conduct independent operations. The capacity to conduct independent operations is an important requirement due to the contemporary threat environment posed by large scale combat operations (LSCO) and the requirement for interoperability with allies and partners. In Part Two, this article will outline the need for the force assignment of additional enabling brigades to 1st (Australian) Division to enable independent combat operations. First, it will re-look at the concept of LSCO to determine its relevance to the Australian Defence Force.

Large Scale Combat Operations and the Relevance to the Australian Defence Force

The transplantation of LSCO from one allied military context to another cannot occur without analysis. Australia’s national security interests nevertheless support the debate around the nature of the threat and the whether the Australian Army is now properly structured to respond. There is a higher likelihood of circumstances in which the ADF may be called upon to engage in warfare across domains of high tempo, complexity, lethality and ambiguity including those within our immediate region. Here Army may need to scale its response across littoral, archipelagic, or major combat operations. It must be flexible and capable of fighting more than one way. If 1st (Australian) Division is deficient in the enabling elements to make it capable of performing independent combined arms operations at the scale, this deficiency requires attention. Scale or ‘combat weight’ of a division delivers the capability effects demanded in these difficult operating environments.

The authors of Large Scale Combat Operations: The Division Fight highlight that the conduct of independent combined arms operations requires a division with dedicated artillery, a combat aviation brigade, an enhanced military intelligence brigade, a manoeuvre enhancement brigade with engineer battalions, and a sustainment brigade. According to US Army’s Field Manual 3-0 Operations the purpose of US Army divisions is to ‘defeat enemy short-range fires, mass effects on enemy forward echelons, and synchronize BCT [Brigade Combat Team] manoeuvre in close combat with enemy forces. BCTs conduct close combat to defeat and destroy enemy forces during battles and engagements.’ To achieve this, recent US doctrine identifies that a division typically commands between two to five BCTs, a mix of functional and multifunctional brigades, and a variety of smaller enabling units.

In a similar vein, if ADF divisions are to conduct independent operations, they should be capable of performing all six warfighting functions described in ADF Doctrine.[i]These are: situation understanding (or ‘intelligence’ in US Army doctrine); command (or ‘mission command’ in US Army doctrine); force projection (or ‘movement and manoeuvre’ in US Army doctrine); force application (or ‘lethal and non-lethal fires’ in US Army doctrine); force generation and sustainment; and, force protection. The next section will highlight that, with the current structure of 1st (Australian) Division, this independence of operations is not currently achievable without further regrouping of Army.

Requirement for Additional Multifunctional Brigades and Enabling Units for 1st (Australian) Division

At his speech on 8 July 2023, CA observed that ‘the 1st, 3rd and 7th Brigades will be regrouped from Forces Command to the 1st Division’. While this restructure goes some way towards addressing the need for establishing permanent command relationships with the brigades, for 1st (Australian) Division to be truly capable of independent operations, I contend that the following formations and units will also need to be included. First and most important, the Division will need to include 17th Sustainment Brigade whose role is to sustain the forces of the Australian Army through the provision of logistics, health support, contracted services and amenities. This will address the missing ‘services allocation’ from the The Division in Battle Pamphlet, which included supplies, transport, ordnance, electrical and mechanical engineers. This Brigade helps to enable the combat brigades to sustain close combat to win battles. The next requirement is a Fires Brigade, subsequently announced by government as 10th Brigade, which includes 16th Regiment Royal Australian Artillery’s Integrated Air and Missile Defence capability, 9th Regiment Royal Australian Artillery, and a future 14th Regiment Royal Australian Artillery with the long-range strike capability. This formation could provide the divisional artillery capability if it were raised within 1st (Australian) Division. This formation will help the Division conduct the deep battle, forward of the combat brigades. A dedicated reconnaissance and security force with the ability to conduct ground reconnaissance based on access to all domain intelligence, is required to identify targets for the deep battle.

Other elements are also required. The enhanced-military intelligence and manoeuvre enhancement capabilities needed at a divisional level are currently combined in 6th Brigade. The description of this Brigade is an Intelligence and Information Warfare Brigade. It contains the capability to fuse intelligence, conduct electronic warfare, cyber defence, military policing and force level engineering. 6th Brigade could provide the nucleus of a multi-function Force Protection or Manoeuvre Support Brigade. Further, while US Army divisions and the former 1st Australian Division contained aviation, it would be inappropriate to transfer 16 Aviation Brigade from Aviation Command during its re-equipping of AH-64E Apache helicopters and UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters. Recently, Government announced that Army Aviation Command will continue on its current modernisation pathway. The enabling brigades will also support the 1st (Australian) Division’s role as the Deployable Joint Force Headquarters as ‘force-level’ troops if the Australian Defence Force requires a Joint Task Force.

Conclusion

Across history and in different nations, the division has been the appropriate echelon of command during periods of sustained conflict. This is because the division is the first echelon of command that can conduct independent operations. For 1st (Australian) Division to achieve both its potential as an ‘orchestra of war’ and to deliver on CA’s intent, it should be assigned multifunctional brigades and enabling units. Specifically, it requires elements of 6th Brigade, 17th Brigade and the soon to be raised 10th Brigade.

The force assignment of these brigades and their units to 1st (Australian) Division would not preclude these enabling capabilities from being available to 2nd (Australian) Division, the rest of the Army or the Integrated Force. What it would provide is the focused stewardship of these capabilities to support the Australian Army’s accelerated preparedness for operations today, and support the synchronised delivery of landing craft, long-range fires, and infantry fighting vehicles for littoral manoeuvre tomorrow.


[i] Australian Defence Force – Philosophical – 3 Campaigns and Operations, Edition 3 of April 2023.

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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